There was a time earlier in his career that many believed quarterback Landry Jones wouldn’t make it to a fifth season in the NFL, let alone a fifth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Many things have not gone their way from that draft, but aside from Le’Veon Bell, however, he has proven to be the standout.
Many would still like to run him out of town, I’m sure—and he did recently relocate his offseason home from Pennsylvania to Texas to be closer to his family—but for the first time in his career, he is entering a season in which he not only is not the young guy in the room, but he is also the unquestioned backup.
The Steelers had stability at the backup quarterback position for years with veterans such as Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, but they decided to move on from both of the aging quarterbacks, opting to draft Jones, and signing Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski to serve as a bridge.
The bridge ended up being longer than anticipated, to be sure. The Steelers were hopeful that Jones would able to make a significant push for the backup job in his second season, but he never even took a snap in 2014, consistently behind Gradkowski.
A year later, when Gradkowski suffered an injury in the preseason, the team even brought in Mike Vick to serve as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, and, unfortunately, it was a role that was needed. The former first-round pick played rather poorly in two and a half games, sans one throw, before getting injured and giving way to Jones.
It was after he stepped in during that third Vick start that things started to change for Jones, and he has been on an upward trajectory since then, culminating in a new two-year contract that, while modest for a backup quarterback, is worth more than he made in all of his first four seasons combined.
He no doubt realizes that the drafting this year of quarterback Joshua Dobbs signals the idea that he is now being put in Gradkowski’s shoes four years ago. The Steelers are going to hope that, by his second season, Dobbs will be able to compete for the backup job—assuming Roethlisberger is still around in 2018.
But for the time being, it is Jones who is—for now anyway—the clear number two on the team, and a player at his position that is viewed as knowledgeable enough that even the starter can seek him out for advice, or at least a second set of eyes. Dobbs would probably have to significantly outperform Jones in the preseason this year in order to take his job.