Barring a miraculous recovery by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger between now and Sunday, backup Landry Jones will make his second career start against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. Jones, who led the Steelers offense on a game-winning drive in Sunday’s win over the Oakland Raiders after Roethlisberger left in the fourth quarter with a left foot sprain, has surprised a lot of people, myself included, with his play so far this season. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he’s seen any tangible improvements from Jones so far, based on his prior work.
“I’m not worried about style points,” said Tomlin. “You can get lost worrying about style points and quality of play. I want him to do what’s required for us to win. I think when you make it that black and white, it makes no bones about what’s expected, to allow him to have a crystal-clear focus about what it is he needs to do. And how he needs to remain, in spite of things that may, or will occur.”
While Jones has been effective for the most part in running the Steelers no-huddle offense late in games, outside of the Steelers final drive a few weeks ago in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s yet to really run it earlier in games. Because of that, Tomlin was asked Tuesday if he has confidence in his young backup to do that this Sunday should he indeed wind up starting against the Browns.
“I think that’s to be determined as we prepare this week. We’re not opposed to it,” said Tomlin. “Like we talked about the first time we played Landry, nobody has accumulated more preseason snaps in 2015 than Landry Jones. He’s done a lot, he’s done a lot of no-huddle. He’s new to playing in regular-season game, but he’s not new to us or new to our system of football. We’ll let production over the course of the week be our guide, in terms of utilization of that and every other aspect of our offense.”
The Steelers might just face a Browns defense on Sunday that could be without the services of starting cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner as both players failed to practice Tuesday as they remain in the league’s concussion protocol process. If neither wind up being ready to play on Sunday, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will likely be matched up against either Justin Gilbert or Pierre Desir in the game and both will likely have problems covering the league’s best pass catcher who is coming off a career game against the Raiders.
Even if Haden winds up playing and covering Brown, the former hasn’t had great success against the latter so far during his career. In other words, Jones shouldn’t have a hard time locating an open Brown throughout the game.
While Tomlin isn’t worried about style points when it comes to Jones, the last thing the quarterback needs to do is to have a performance similar to the one he had in his first start against the Chiefs as he turned the football over three times in that game. Jones, however, appears to be comfortable with the task that lies ahead of him.
“I just gotta go out there and play,” he said Wednesday morning, according to steelers.com. “Not be timid, not worry about making mistakes. Just go out there and let loose.”