It was hard to find high points in last night’s game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, though some were more obvious than others. Naturally, James Conner was a big winner early on, and rookie wide receiver James Washington dominated the second half of the game with a series of very impressive receptions.
But one of the players who may have benefitted most from last night’s game was one who didn’t even play, though he was in uniform. That would be Landry Jones, the sixth-year quarterback whose fate as the long-term backup was sealed when the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
At least in theory. But after last night, it doesn’t appear as though he should have to worry too much about losing his position, because Rudolph did not play like a quarterback who was ready to be one snap away from leading a team. Neither did Joshua Dobbs, who had some success against third- and fourth-string defenders when Washington was able to make plays for him.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin said that he wanted to get an extended look at his two young quarterbacks, and that he did. Rudolph played all of the first half, and Dobbs played all of the second half. Both of them had their moments in which they flashed potential, but your backup quarterback has to be more than potential. He has to reliable and trusted.
That’s why Jones is in all likelihood safe at the backup quarterback position. The younger quarterbacks are simply not ready for that job, no matter how much anybody wants them to be. Another team would really have to offer the Steelers something spectacular and unrealistic in a trade in order for there to arise a scenario in which Jones is not the number two behind Ben Roethlisberger.
Do you want to know why Jones didn’t play last night? The answer is simple. It’s because he didn’t need to, and the team didn’t need him to. The Steelers know what they have in Jones at this point in his career. He is even a player now who doesn’t need a ton of reps. He knows the offense like the back of his hand and knows how to run it (especially when he’s not taking snaps from a novice center).
Rudolph still has a long way to go, but he’s making progress. Dobbs has improved from last season as well, but not to the degree that you would have expected. And neither of them have ever thrown a meaningful pass before.
It’s unrealistic to expect the Steelers to head into a year with Super Bowl aspirations one snap away from having a complete novice leading the team under center. And neither of the young quarterbacks have done anything that would suggest that the team should reconsider that option. So Jones was one of the winners from last night’s game without ever taking the field.