The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Landry Jones
Experience: 3 Years
It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had to write anything meaningful about a Steelers quarterback other than Ben Roethlisberger, who only missed a total of three snaps due to injury, and 10 snaps total, between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
A rough and tumble quarterback famed for sustaining and weathering tough injuries, it was no surprise to see Roethlisberger miss a game or two a year—in fact, he has missed at least one in all but three of his 12 seasons, albeit a fourth season resulted in four missed games due to suspension.
That was not the case in 2015, and it took injuries to two more quarterbacks before we get to the man of the hour, Landry Jones.
A former 2013 fourth-round draft pick, Jones’ roster spot was seemingly in jeopardy coming into a do-or-die offseason where he was given a tremendous amount of preseason work. He ultimately made the roster, but when the Steelers’ backup, Bruce Gradkowski, went down with season-ending injuries in the preseason, they went out and signed somebody else to serve under Roethlisberger.
That quarterback was Mike Vick, and that decision turned out to be a poor one, even if they ultimately won two of the three games that he started. One of those victories, however, should be credited largely to Le’Veon Bell, who scored the walk-off touchdown, and the other owes a lot to Jones and Martavis Bryant, who brought the Steelers up from behind after Vick sustained a hamstring injury.
It was that late-game performance that flipped the fortunes of the two quarterbacks, with Jones jumping into the backup role. He started the following week, but he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a late-game sack.
Ultimately, however, the players and coaching staff liked the way that he ran the offense, as well as his knowledge of the system, some teammates calling him Roethlisberger’s little brother. But Roethlisberger’s special teams work as a punter far outshines Jones’ work as a holder-turned-gadget-quarterback.
In spite of his 2015 rise, his role in the pecking order is not secure heading into this year, whether that is through Gradkowski returning or somebody else being brought in. He found moments of success, but he also didn’t necessarily look like a winner either. 2016 will be another important offseason in his fourth year, but this time it won’t be with a job, but rather a role at stake.