It’s time to talk about Landry Jones. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft with an eye not toward him developing into a capable starting quarterback, but rather backup quarterback that could learn under Ben Roethlisberger in the late stages of his career.
He did that. But now he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. And the Steelers really don’t have any other particularly lucrative alternatives to re-signing him at the moment. Jones is far from being one of the most popular players on the roster but he has done much better than many give him credit for.
I often like to bring up something that I call the Next Man Up Syndrome. It’s the idea that the fan base will always clamor for a starter’s backup to see more playing time whenever that starter is struggling or is yet to be established.
Only in this case we have the next man up to the next man up. I would not be surprised if we took a poll today and found that the average Pittsburgh Steelers fan would rather head into the 2017 season with Zach Mettenberger as Roethlisberger’s backup rather than Jones.
This despite the fact that Mettenberger has never won a game just because he did a reasonably presentable job against the Steelers a couple of years ago in what was pretty clearly the best game of his career and featured William Gay being foolishly beaten on a double move just before halftime.
This despite the fact that there has been virtually nothing positive from anybody who covers the Steelers’ practices about Mettenberger’s development. Beat writers used to joke that Jones made the Steelers’ struggling cornerbacks look good. I don’t want to know what would be written about Mettenberger if he were to become relevant.
Jones showed enough in his two starts this year to know that the Steelers should be able to run their offense as long as he has the pieces around him that are available to Roethlisberger. And though it might have come against the Browns, he showed that he can do well even without some key members of the supporting cast.
Pittsburgh wanted Jones to develop into a legitimate backup quarterback. He has gotten to that point now in his career, even if it took a bit longer than they were originally hoping that it would. It would make little sense provided that the financials are in order to let him walk in free agency now that he has lived up to his draft status.