next man up

Roeth­lis­berger is close to re­turn­ing and Vick is out, so Pitts­burgh may have to lean on third-stringer Jones vs. Chiefs

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY MARK MASKE mark.maske@wash­post.com

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.”

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