I’m going to attempt what no sane man would ever try. Figure out a way the Pittsburgh Steelers can win with Landry Jones.
Of course, even the cheeriest of Steelers’ fans know the chances of Pittsburgh pulling off the upset are slim. But the team isn’t going to go into the game hanging their heads and assuming the game is over before the coin toss. Like it or not (statistically, you don’t), Jones is the guy.
So how can the offense succeed with him? We’re not going to get too complex, because really, it shouldn’t be, but I’m not going to talk about the obvious of give Le’Veon Bell the dang ball.
A couple concepts I’d lean the most on.
1. Snag/Cop Concepts
Todd Haley loves running these in the red zone. Jones’ first career touchdown, coming off the bench against the Arizona Cardinals and hitting Martavis Bryant in the right corner.
A snag route is a three route combination consisting of a: curl (snag), flat, and corner route. A cone read where Jones can go through his progressions all at once, not having to scan the field and reprocess the coverage.
If that flat defender expands, the snag is probably open. If that isn’t, then try the corner.
It’s a money concept in the red zone, as we pointed out last year.
There’s a slight variation to that, his Z Cop. Some idea, a snag route, with the corner route working under the snag before stemming to his corner. There is a MOFO/MOFC read, too, from the 2006 Dallas Cowboys’ playbook I’ve referenced time and time again.
Haley ran this in the preseason against the New Orleans Saints for a Sammie Coates’ touchdown.
2. Hank Concepts
Another staple, a play that can give you 5-7 yards, is his Hank. A curl/flat combination mirrored to each side with a player, usually James, sitting down in the middle.
This is an efficient playcall with a simple read that could take advantage of some of the Cover 2 New England plays on early downs. When the MIKE linebackers drops to get depth, it’ll open up the tight end underneath. And James has shown to have a high football IQ and pretty good pair of hands.
3. Throw Deep
I’m not afraid to pull the trigger and throw deep. As Dave Bryan thoroughly broke down, Jones has completed half of his throws of 16+ yards. He has an above average arm and better-than-expected accuracy downfield. Antonio Brown has certainly helped him with some difficult grabs but hey, that’s the dude you want to lean on. And he has to be more involved in the offense.
Jones seemed to struggle the most hitting moving targets in the middle of the field. Slants, crossers, digs, his accuracy really dip and receivers struggle to adjust to the football, if they can all.
4. Run/Pass Options
I don’t have a number to quantify this but I feel like the number of RPOs Pittsburgh has run this year are decrease. This are simple, efficient, and in theory, win-win plays for the offense that is tough for a defense to stop because the play has so many layers.
RPOs aren’t something Pittsburgh used much with Jones last year but they did on this one throw to Antonio Brown, a great throw by Jones backshoulder down the left sideline for a big gain.
I’m all for throwing in a couple of those to create throwing lanes and hopefully a couple chunk plays. Great way to get their talent, Bell, AB, Coates in space.
I’m not looking to immensely water things down for Jones. Limit some stuff, be smart, sure, but if we’re reducing this playbook to 50 runs and checkdowns, Jones shouldn’t be the quarterback in the first place (which many of you will be happy with).
He can work within the core of this playbook and yes, even succeed. The execution is something I can’t answer but this gameplan gives him the best chance of moving the Steelers’ offense.