One has to seriously wonder if Landry Jones just played in his last game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The veteran backup started his fourth game of his career, and this was the first one that he finished in which he was credited with a victory. Jones was a fourth-round pick in 2013 and is headed for unrestricted free agency in the offseason.
With the Steelers having locked up the three seed in the AFC playoff picture, Head Coach Mike Tomlin elected to rest four of their five Pro Bowl players on the offensive side of the ball, which included Ben Roethlisberger, in doing so giving Jones the opportunity to start the season finale.
In spite of the fact that he was down basically six starters on offense, including himself, Jones and the Steelers managed to get over a pretty terrible first-half showing to score 21 unanswered points and ultimately lead a game-winning drive in overtime.
On the day, Jones completed 24 of 37 passes for 277 yards, tossing three touchdown passes versus one interception—which was very nearly returned for a touchdown, but a fumble on the return spilled out of the back of the Steelers’ end zone for a touchback instead.
Jones certainly had the best showing in his career, which, granted, has included relatively few opportunities, and the three passing touchdowns is the most that he has had in a game. His control of the offense, leading the team to three touchdown drives on their final five possessions, late in the game will certainly be noticed.
He made some big-time throws throughout the game, though he did not always get the help from his supporting cast that he needed. Demarcus Ayers dropped one downfield pass and failed to drag his feet on another that would have gone for 20 yards and converted on third down, though it would have been an impressive play altogether had he made it a catch.
And he came up in big spots, as well. In overtime, with the Browns having already scored a field goal, he converted in third and five early on a pass for Cobi Hamilton. Later, the Steelers went for the attack on fourth in two within field goal range, finding Ayers on a crossing route. Jones went for the jugular on the next play and dropped it in the basket for Hamilton for the walk-off 26-yard touchdown.
Were there some warts in his performance? Certainly, but that is to be expected for a backup who was mostly surrounded by backups, and that can also partially explain how the Steelers gave up four sacks for the second time this season.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the 27-year-old when he hits the open market in March, and how this showing in the finale will affect his attractiveness to other organizations. The Steelers would probably like to have him back, but only at the right price, and we know how the quarterback market can get pretty crazy at times.