next man up
Roethlisberger is close to returning and Vick is out, so Pittsburgh may have to lean on third-stringer Jones vs. Chiefs
Two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger seems to be close to returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineup. But it might be overly optimistic to expect it to happen this weekend. So in the meantime, the Steelers are readying to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday with Landry Jones potentially making his first NFL start.
Jones is a third-year pro from Oklahoma who had not played in a regular season NFL game until this past Sunday when he took over against the Arizona Cardinals after Michael Vick, the fill-in starter for the Steelers since Roethlisberger’s Week 3 knee injury, exited with a hamstring injury. Jones immediately did an excellent Roethlisberger impersonation, completing 8 of 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers prevailed, 25-13.
“I wasn’t shocked by his performance,” Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said at a news conference this week. “Like I said after the game, he’s logged about as many preseason snaps as anybody in the history of the NFL and really took good advantage of those repetitions, like we all talked about during the course of the preseason. I acknowledge that that’s just preseason, and preseason is not an indication of what regular season football is about. So we were not shocked by his performance. ”
Roethlisberger’s left knee is on the mend after he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament and a bone bruise. He has been a limited participant in practice this week after throwing in seven-on-seven passing drills on the practice field last week. Tomlin said his plan was to “play it by ear” with Roethlisberger and Vick this week while getting Jones ready to play.
“I think it’s prudent and appropriate right now that we proceed with the assumption that Landry is our quarterback this week,” Tomlin said. “He is the one that’s healthy. The other guys have elements of questions regarding their health. So we’ll go day by day and look at their availability and effectiveness. Obviously we’ll do what’s right with those guys.”
The Steelers, at 4-2, have done a nice job of remaining in contention with Roethlisberger sidelined. Jones’s solid play against the Cardinals might give them reason to believe that they don’t have to rush Roethlisberger back. They are on the road and facing a team, in the Chiefs, that had been expected to be in the AFC playoff mix this season. But Kansas City has struggled to a record of 1-5.
Jones threw both of his touchdown passes last weekend to wide receiver Martavis Bryant. If he starts this weekend, he would be well served to get wideout Antonio Brown involved in the offense. Brown’s production has suffered without Roethlisberger. He has only 11 catches for 111 yards in the three games the Steelers have played without Roethlisberger.
Tomlin called it reasonable to expect Jones to be better prepared to play well this weekend.
“He made some nice plays ,” Tom lin said .“I mean, you know, he’ s a professional quarterback. We’re not going to throw a pep rally or a party because of it. He did what was expected. He needs to continue to work and prepare this week and deliver similar plays.”