NFL Nation: Landry Jones

Steelers Camp Report: Day 4

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
LATROBE, Pa. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • The competition has started. The separation has not. “One unit will have a good day and piss the other unit off. They’ll come back and win the next one,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday following the second padded practice of training camp. “There’s ebb and flow.” With the first preseason game still more than a week away, Tomlin is using the practices to pit different players against each other and have them hone their technique in the crucible of competition. “We’ve got some guys that have the proper energy and urgency but are still growing in technical areas,” Tomlin said.
  • Troy Polamalu drew a roar from the crowd at St. Vincent College when the veteran strong safety intercepted a pass that would have easily gone for a touchdown had it been an actual game. Rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier nearly intercepted a pass when he arrived at the same time as a short pass over the middle to tight end Matt Spaeth. There was just enough contact between the two to keep Shazier from hanging on to the ball. The first-round pick looked a little gimpy after the near interception, but Tomlin said Shazier did not get hurt on the play.
  • Rookie tight end Rob Blanchflower suffered a setback when he sustained a high ankle sprain. The seventh-round draft pick will miss “at least a week,” Tomlin said. Running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring), linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and wide receiver C.J. Goodwin (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday.
  • Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant flashed his talent a couple of times Wednesday after a quiet start to camp. The fourth-round pick caught a deep ball early in practice after beating cornerback Lewis Toler in one-on-one drills between the wide receivers and defensive backs. Bryant caught several passes Wednesday and nearly made a spectacular sideline grab of a ball that was slightly underthrown and was ultimately broken up because cornerback Antwon Blake had done a good job of establishing inside position. Bryant did have a bad drop near the end of practice.
  • There were several highlights from the pass-rushing/pass-protection competition. Nose tackle Steve McLendon knocked Cody Wallace on his wallet after bull-rushing the reserve center and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers ran over tackle Mike Adams later in the drill. The offensive line, however, appeared to hold its own as a group in the drill.
  • It’s tough to get a read on how much progress second-year quarterback Landry Jones is making. The 2013 fourth-round pick completed consecutive passes after showing nice pocket awareness and good footwork during an 11-on-11 drill. The former Oklahoma star, however, took a sack and threw a bad interception on the next two plays. He is still very much a work in progress.
PITTSBURGH -- The offense and defense traded big plays Wednesday in the Pittsburgh Steelers' second minicamp practice of the week.

Ben Roethlisberger threw long touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton during a two-plus hour practice, but the Steelers' defensive backs also had their moments on a hot and humid day that it made it feel like training camp.

Starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen each intercepted Roethlisberger. Allen had a pair of picks while inside linebacker Sean Spence returned an intercepted Landry Jones pass for a touchdown.

Practice concluded with rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant showcasing his speed by blowing past the Steelers' defensive backs and hauling in a long touchdown pass from Jones.

That play, free safety Mike Mitchell said, ultimately allowed the offense to get the better of the defense, though it was close.

"They ended with a high note," Mitchell said. "It would have been nice to knock that ball down but we're battling. I think we've been playing really good in the secondary as a unit. We're all kind of learning each other's strengths and what each other likes to do. We're getting better."

Also of note from Wednesday:
  • Justin Brown continues to get work with the first-team offense, and the 2013 sixth-round pick stood out during a 7-on-9 pass drill. Brown caught a long pass from Roethlisberger and then capped the drive with a short touchdown reception.
  • Roethlisberger is optimistic Dri Archer will help the offense but he isn't sure how the Steelers will deploy the fleet-footed rookie. Archer, Roethlisberger said, has been splitting time between playing running back and wide receiver. The third-round draft pick has also been among the players who have fielded punts during offseason practices. The Steelers are hoping to get more out of Archer than they did Chris Rainey, a fifth-round pick in 2012 who lasted just one season in Pittsburgh. "Is he a better runner than Rainey?" Roethlisberger said. "We won't really know until we get some pads on and get on the field."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who practiced on a limited basis of a lingering calf injury, is a good example of how much younger the Steelers have gotten on defense in recent years. Worilds turned just 26 in March, but he is one of the more experienced players on the Steelers' defense. "I'm one of the elders in the room now," Worilds said. "It's an interesting role to be in. I'm just helping some of the younger guys, making sure they know how to go about being a professional and taking care of themselves."

Worilds out, Sanders to play

December, 29, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without their leading pass-rusher Sunday against the Cleveland Browns as outside linebacker Jason Worilds is inactive because of an abdominal injury. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is playing despite a sprained knee that knocked him out of the second half of the Packers game last Sunday.

The Steelers are dressing an extra wide receiver as insurance as Derek Moye is active.

Sanders is among those who could be playing in their final game for the Steelers today as he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Steelers need to beat the Browns and also get wins from the Jets, Bengals and Chiefs to make the playoffs.

In addition to Worilds, who will be replaced at left outside linebacker by Chris Carter, linebacker Terence Garvin, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, cornerback Isaiah Green, defensive Brian Arnfelt, quarterback Landry Jones and center David Snow are inactive for the Steelers.

A steady raining is falling in Pittsburgh, and the grounds crew took the tarp off the field a little before 11 a.m. ET.
How well did the Pittsburgh Steelers draft last April? Ask me in three years.

I think it takes at least three years before you can accurately -- and fairly -- judge a draft class. That said, 12 games have provided enough of a sample size to assess how the Steelers’ rookies have fared in their first NFL season.

Here is a look at where the players in the Steelers’ most recent draft picks stand three-quarters of the way into the 2013 season.

1. Jarvis Jones, OLB: Jones has not made much of an impact as a pass-rusher, and the Steelers took the former Georgia star 17th overall to get after the quarterback. But it takes time for outside linebackers in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense to develop, so it’s way too early to read much into the fact that Jones has just one sack and 30 tackles. Just as paramount as the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder improving his grasp of the defense in the offseason is Jones adding bulk.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsLe'Veon Bell has been one of the bright spots from Pittsburgh's latest draft class.
2. Le'Veon Bell, RB: The early returns are good on this pick as Bell is almost a lock to win the Joe Greene Award, which is given to the team’s top rookie. The former Michigan State star is already a focal point of the offense, and he is the kind of all-around back around which the Steelers can build. Bell is nearing 1,000 yards of total offense -- he has 847 -- and he is only going to get better as a runner.

3. Markus Wheaton, WR: The Steelers have gotten minimal production from Wheaton, which has been surprising considering the praise he received from some of the veteran players before the start of the season. Wheaton, who has six catches for 64 yards, hasn’t gotten on the field much as a No. 4 wide receiver, and he missed four games after needing surgery to fix a broken right pinkie. His development is crucial, especially if Emmanuel Sanders signs elsewhere after the season as an unrestricted free agent.

4a. Shamarko Thomas, S: The former Syracuse star has played well enough to get on the field extensively as a third safety in the Steelers’ quarter package, though he missed two games recently with a high-ankle sprain. Thomas, who has 29 tackles, has to be a big part of the future with Ryan Clark unlikely to return after the season and Troy Polamalu also anything but guaranteed to be back in 2014 since he is set to make just over $8 million in the final year of his contract.

4b. Landry Jones, QB: Jones has not been on the active roster for any game this season. That is actually a good thing as it means Ben Roethlisberger has stayed healthy, and indeed the 10th-year veteran has avoided the kind of injuries that have sidelined him in past seasons. It’s too early to call this a wasted pick but it certainly looks like the Steelers could have gone in another direction with the second of their two fourth-round selections, especially since they had signed a proven backup in Bruce Gradkowski before they drafted Jones.

5. Terry Hawthorne, CB: The Illinois product did not show enough during offseason practices or training camp for the Steelers to even keep him on the practice squad after cutting Hawthorne at the end of August. Hawthorne couldn’t overcome offseason knee surgery, and he is currently a free agent.

6a. Justin Brown, WR: He lost the the battle for the final wide receiver spot on the 53-man roster to former Penn State teammate Derek Moye. Brown has been on the practice squad all season, and he will be given a chance to make the team next season. He also has potential as a punt returner.

6b. Vince Williams, LB: The former Florida State star has been thrust into the starting lineup due to a season-ending bicep injury sustained by Larry Foote. Williams has probably played as well as can be expected but it’s too early to tell whether he has a future with the Steelers as a starter or is more suited for a backup role. Williams has 40 tackles, but he has played sparingly in recent week as he comes off the field in the quarter package and has also lost some snaps to undrafted rookie Terence Garvin.

7. Nick Williams, DE: Another small-school project for Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell. The Steelers saw enough from Williams to place him on injured reserve instead of waiving him with an injury settlement in late August. Williams is working his way back from a knee injury, and the offseason will be a critical one for the Samford product.

Overall: Could have been better but could have been worse, too. And that assessment comes with the caveat that it’s way too early to label any of the rookies, which include Garvin, guard Chris Hubbard (practice squad), defensive end Brian Arnfelt (practice squad) and Devin Smith (practice squad) as anything but works in progress.

No suprises among Steelers inactives

November, 3, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are no surprises among the Pittsburgh Steelers' healthy scratches Sunday.

Inside linebacker Kion Wilson is inactive for the second game in a row since the Steelers promoted him from the practice squad.

Wilson’s status just confirms that when the Steelers released Isaac Redman a couple of weeks ago they did so because they had no use for the veteran running back.

Wilson benefited from Redman’s release but if the Steelers really needed another linebacker on the 53-man roster he would have suited up in each or at least one of the past two games.

Also inactive for the Steelers are right guard David DeCastro (ankle), wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger), cornerback Curtis Brown, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, tight end Richard Gordon and quarterback Landry Jones.

Wheaton did some light catching with the other wide receivers a couple of hours before kickoff, and he appears to be moving closer to returning to the field.

Wheaton will miss his fourth game in a row after having surgery to fix a broken right pinkie.

The Patriots will be without top cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) while wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is inactive after playing just 14 snaps last Sunday.

Observation deck: Steelers-Panthers

August, 30, 2013

Some thoughts from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 25-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Thursday's preseason finale:
  • The only way Derek Moye doesn't make the 53-man roster is if the Steelers keep just four wide receivers. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder clearly separated himself from the other receivers vying for a spot behind Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Markus Wheaton. Moye caught two passes for a team-high 55 yards Thursday; he received bonus points for chasing down Josh Norman from behind after the Carolina cornerback intercepted a Landry Jones throw and had nothing but green grass in front of him. Moye's hustle saved a touchdown and the Panthers settled for a field goal.
  • Jones played the entire game and finished with a thud after a great start. The former Oklahoma star looked masterful in directing an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the Steelers' opening possession. Jones looked like the rookie he is after that. He completed just 13 of 32 passes for 149 yards and three interceptions. The last pick came on his final pass of the game and, the Steelers have to hope, the foreseeable future. Wide receiver Justin Brown fell down on the play, but Jones still looked a long way from being NFL-ready. If injuries force Jones -- the No. 3 quarterback -- to play, the Steelers are in trouble anyway.
  • The toughest roster decisions the coaches and front office have to make might come at linebacker. Undrafted rookie Alan Baxter again put consistent pressure on the quarterback, and he will be tough to cut. But do the Steelers like him enough on special teams to keep a fifth outside linebacker? There appear to be at least four solid candidates for two backup spots at inside linebacker, and it probably comes down to special teams when sorting through those players.
  • If veteran Brian Moorman had to beat out Drew Butler, I think the latter hangs on to his job as punter. Neither one stood out during preseason play, and Butler is younger. He is also the incumbent.
  • Felix Jones ran well, gaining a game-high 56 yards on 14 carries and presenting the coaches with a tough decision at running back. Jones is probably the odd man out if the Steelers keep four running backs on their 53-man roster as well as fullback Will Johnson. But the former first-round pick could have convinced Pittsburgh to keep another running back while rookie Le'Veon Bell recovers from a mid-foot sprain.
  • I don't think Curtis Brown is in trouble as far as making the team, but the former third-round pick didn't help himself at Carolina. He was beaten twice for touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr., who torched the Steelers with 149 receiving yards.
  • Wheaton saw his most extension action of the preseason, and the rookie third-round draft pick produced mixed results. He dropped three passes, including one that Jones put right on his hands. But Wheaton also showed why the Steelers are so high on him. He blew past a Panthers defensive back in the first half and would have caught a long touchdown pass had Jones not put too much air under the ball.
  • I know fans were screaming when Reggie Dunn fielded a punt inside the Steelers' 5-yard line and got tackled for a safety after he went backward while trying to reverse field. But Dunn isn't going to make the team anyway, and the undrafted rookie was just trying to make a play. The Steelers were intrigued by his speed, but one thing worked against Dunn from the start: the frequency of touchbacks in the NFL has de-emphasized kickoff returners.
  • What will the 53-man roster look like? I will take a shot at projecting it Friday in a post that will be up before noon. I expect the Steelers to make some cuts Friday afternoon, and they could do as they did in 2011, when they made the majority of their roster moves a day before the 53-man rosters had to be finalized.
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Dwyer will play in the Steelers’ final preseason game as he had hoped. Isaac Redman won’t get a chance to suit up at Carolina on Thursday despite his best lobbying efforts to do so.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that the Steelers will use the preseason finale to take a long look at Dwyer, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Felix Jones.

Dwyer figures to get the least amount of work of the three considering how extensively he has played in the Steelers’ past two games. Stephens-Howling is returning to action after missing the past two games because of a mild knee sprain. Jones, meanwhile, will get one final opportunity to prove to the Steelers coaches that he belongs on the 53-man roster, which has to be finalized by 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

“Obviously we’ve got a lot of backs we need to sort through so we’re going to look at some of those others,” Tomlin said.

That Redman (stinger) won’t play actually bodes well for the fourth-year veteran opening the season as the Steelers’ starting running back. The coaches apparently don’t need to see any more from Redman, who played in just one preseason game and gained 7 yards on two carries.

Whether Dwyer, Stephens-Howling and Jones are competing for two spots remains to be seen.

Rookie Le’Veon Bell, who is nursing a foot sprain, is a lock to make the team. So too is Redman.

I’ve got to think Dwyer and Stephens-Howling are safe and that the decision on Jones will come down to whether the Steelers carry an extra running back on the 53-man roster until Bell returns.

Also notable from Tomlin’s news conference:
  • Rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (chest) has been ruled out for Thursday night. The Steelers are being cautious with Jones, who spent last Saturday night in the hospital after an awkward fall at the end of an interception return.
  • Tomlin did not say how much the starters will play against the Panthers. If history (and common sense) is any guide most of the starters won’t play more than a series.“The healthy guys are going to play in some capacity,” Tomlin said. “I might select a guy or two to minimize because I want to see others.”Two of those are likely to be quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski as rookie Landry Jones will “get the big bulk of the action,” Tomlin said.
  • There don’t appear to be many roster spots on the line Thursday night. One thing Tomlin has emphasized to his players, particularly the young linebackers who are fighting for jobs, is what they do on special teams will be more important than anything else against Carolina.“I think we need more consistent, above the line effort from some of those guys in that regard,” Tomlin said.

Observation deck: Steelers-Redskins

August, 19, 2013

The Pittsburgh Steelers broke training camp Sunday. If coach Mike Tomlin had his way, the team would probably return to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., instead of Pittsburgh for the rest of preseason practice.

The Steelers still have plenty of work ahead of them as their uneven, and at times ragged, play showed Monday night in a 24-13 loss at Washington.

Three turnovers, untimely penalties and an inability to control the line of scrimmage added up to the Steelers’ second loss in as many preseason games. The players return to work Wednesday, and the starters will see their final extended action of the preseason Saturday night when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs. Here is a review of the Steelers’ loss to the Redskins:

The offensive line film room won’t be a lot of fun later this week when position coach Jack Bicknell Jr. breaks down tape of the game with his players. And no one was immune to the kind of mistakes that added up to a subpar showing at best for the offensive line.

The interior of the line couldn’t handle Barry Cofield, and the Redskins nose tackle beat Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for an early sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Cofield also split the double-team of Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro to force the Roethlisberger interception that Ryan Kerrigan returned for a touchdown.

The Steelers’ first four penalties were committed by offensive linemen. Four penalties by offensive linemen wiped out pass completions that moved the chains. The good news? It’s still only August.

• Roethlisberger pulled on a baseball hat earlier than expected and gave way to backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski early in the second quarter. But that’s because Big Ben was nearly flawless after throwing an interception for a touchdown on the first series of the game.

The 10th-year veteran completed his next five pass attempts behind a leaky offensive line, and a 26-yard toss to tight end David Paulson was trademark Roethlisberger.

He escaped a collapsing pocket and bought enough time to find Paulson for a big gainer. Roethlisberger looked like he was in midseason form after the careless swing pass that Kerrigan intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He completed five of six passes for 66 yards.

• There can’t be any questions about Jonathan Dwyer making the team after the fourth-year running back rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 14 carries.

Dwyer relieved rookie Le'Veon Bell after Bell left the game early with a foot injury, and he showed good vision and elusiveness despite running behind lines that struggled. Dwyer did lose a careless fumble, but that was one of his few blemishes, and 57 of his rushing yards came in the first half against Washington’s first-team defense.

Bell’s early injury problems make hanging onto Dwyer a must, and that would make Baron Batch the odd man out if the Steelers keep only four running backs along with fullback Will Johnson on their 53-man roster.

• Rookie Jarvis Jones played the bulk of the time at right outside linebacker with the first-team defense, and the first-round pick forced a fumble that Ike Taylor recovered deep in Redskins territory.

Jones is physically ready for the NFL, and he appears to be making good progress in learning Dick LeBeau’s defense. Jason Worilds, whom Jones is battling for a starting job, played sparingly and lined up at both left and right outside linebacker. Whether or not he is losing ground to Jones remains to be seen. The coaches might have wanted to take a long look at Jones, who also played with the second-team defense.

• The defense did a good job early of getting off the field but also made third-string quarterback Rex Grossman look like a Pro Bowler. Grossman relieved injured Kirk Cousins in the first quarter and completed seven of nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

One plus for the defense is it forced four turnovers, including safety Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith's interception of Grossman in the third quarter.

Markus Wheaton did a pretty nice Mike Wallace impersonation in the third quarter when he blew past a Redskins cornerback and hauled in a 45-yard pass from third-string quarterback Landry Jones. The wide receivers were one of the few bright spots for the Steelers as Emmanuel Sanders made a couple of leaping grabs and Derek Moye, who is battling for a roster spot, scored the Steelers’ only touchdown on a 10-yard reception.

Jones still looked every part the rookie against the Redskins, but the former Oklahoma star showed improvement from his first preseason game. Jones led the Steelers’ only touchdown drive, one that he capped with the scoring pass to Moye on fourth-and-1. He also showed nice touch on the pass to Wheaton, though he almost put too much air under the ball. Jones completed nine of 22 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Observation deck: Giants-Steelers

August, 10, 2013
Here are my observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 18-13 preseason loss to the New York Giants on Saturday night:
  • No one should jump to conclusions off one performance, especially the preseason opener. But, among the AFC North teams, the Steelers had the sloppiest start to the preseason. There were special-teams gaffes, head-shaking penalties from outside linebacker Jason Worilds and a rough debut for rookie quarterback Landry Jones. It's not going to be a fun couple of days reviewing the film for coach Mike Tomlin.
  • Tomlin decided to sit Le'Veon Bell (ankle) just a few days after he had announced the rookie running back would receive snaps with the first team. While some might consider this a setback, there is a silver lining in this for Bell. Resting him indicates the Steelers don't want to risk injuring him further, which is a sign he figures big in the team's plans early in the season. Last year's running backs, Isaac Redman (who got the start) and Jonathan Dwyer, combined for eight carries for 22 yards, which shows why the Steelers need a healthy Bell.
  • Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling was the offensive star for Pittsburgh. A free-agent pickup from Arizona, Stephens-Howling finished with 40 yards on seven first-half carries by showing his elusiveness. Remember, he's on the team because the Steelers parted ways with Chris Rainey after his off-the-field incident in January.
  • If Worilds wants to win the outside linebacker job, he's going to have to play better than this. After recording a sack to end a drive on third-and-1, he was flagged for roughing the passer twice in a span of three plays. That led to his getting benched in favor of Chris Carter.
  • This was a nightmare first game for special-teams coach Danny Smith. Drew Butler had a punt blocked (which came after Marshall McFadden was flagged as an ineligible man downfield), returner David Gilreath made the poor decision to field a punt at his own 3-yard line and Justin Brown was penalized for an illegal block in the back.
  • When is cornerback Cortez Allen going to be fully recovered from knee surgery? That's the question the Steelers were asking when Allen's replacement, William Gay, was beaten for a 57-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Injuries at cornerback haven't left the Steelers with many options at that spot. The good news for Pittsburgh is that Allen should be ready to suit up before the regular-season opener.
  • Jones had an embarrassing first NFL snap when he ran into running back Baron Batch while attempting to hand the ball off to him. Jones had to jump on the ball in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. To be fair, few rookie quarterbacks have stellar performances in their first preseason game. Jones finished 5-of-9 for 48 yards. Here's how the other quarterbacks fared: Ben Roethlisberger was 4-of-8 for 36 yards, Bruce Gradkowski was 6-of-11 for 35 yards and John Parker Wilson was 4-of-5 for 35 yards.
Here are some thoughts on the "unofficial" depth chart recently released by the Pittsburgh Steelers:
  • It confirmed that Mike Adams is now the favorite to start at left tackle after many assumed Gilbert would be protecting Ben Roethlisberger's blind side. Adams has been practicing on the left side for nearly a week in training camp, and it makes sense. He played left tackle at Ohio State and Gilbert started on the right side at Florida.
  • At tight end, Matt Spaeth is at the top of the depth chart because Heath Miller (knee) remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. David Paulson is listed as the top backup.
  • There are questions about what the Steelers are going to do in the return game. According to the depth chart, Pittsburgh is going to rely on its starting wide receivers. Emmanuel Sanders is listed as the kickoff returner and Antonio Brown is the punt returner. I expect LaRod Stephens-Howling to end up being the kickoff returner and he's listed right behind Sanders. David Gilreath is the No. 2 punt returner.
Quarterback Landry Jones has only completed a rookie minicamp and he's already being asked whether he's going to replace Ben Roethlisberger.

"I have no idea," Jones said, via the Associated Press. "You might want to talk to the coaches or Mr. Rooney on that one, what they want to do."

The more appropriate question is whether the Steelers are going to be able to develop Jones. He was a highly decorated quarterback at Oklahoma, but the Steelers' track record at grooming young quarterbacks isn't as impressive.

Since Kevin Colbert joined the Steelers in 2000 as director of football operations (assumed title of general manager in 2010), Pittsburgh has drafted six quarterbacks, including Jones last month. Roethlisberger, a first-round pick in 2004, has won two Super Bowls. Four others, all drafted in the fifth round, never established themselves as a long-term backup. This has allowed Charlie Batch to remain with the team for so long.
  • Tee Martin, a 2000 fifth-round pick out of Tennessee, is notable for the fact that he's one of six quarterbacks drafted before Tom Brady that year. He lasted two seasons with the Steelers and never threw a pass in the regular season.
  • Brian St. Pierre, a 2003 fifth-round pick out of Boston College, was cut more times by the Steelers (three total) than games played for them (one).
  • Omar Jacobs, a 2006 fifth-round pick out of Bowling Green, never made the active roster. He currently plays for the Wichita Falls Nighthawks of the Professional American Football League.
  • Dennis Dixon, a 2008 fifth-round pick out of Oregon, had the most staying power of these quarterbacks but he was primarily the No. 3 quarterback during his four seasons in Pittsburgh. Dixon did make three starts, winning two. He has since reunited with college coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.

The Steelers are trying again with Jones, who was drafted in the fourth round. Pittsburgh will likely use him as a third quarterback this year behind Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski, who signed a three-year deal this offseason to be the primary backup. Based on their history, the Steelers would be pleased if Jones eventually becomes the No. 2 quarterback.
ESPN's Todd McShay evaluates the NFL draft for each AFC North team , giving his take on the best and most questionable picks. It's an Insider article, so you'll need a subscription to view the entire post. But here are McShay's picks and my take on them:


Best pick: Safety Matt Elam, first round.

Questionable pick: Offensive lineman Ricky Wagner, fifth round.

My comments: I think everyone can agree that the Ravens' first two picks, Elam and inside linebacker Arthur Jones, will be impact rookies. As far as questionable picks, it's tough to criticize any of Baltimore's selections based on value. Wagner was considered a second-round pick last year but he fell after not having a stellar 2012 season.


Best pick: Tight end Tyler Eifert, first round.

Questionable pick: Safety Shawn Williams, third round.

My comments: Eifert should be the best player drafted in the last dozen picks of the first round. The Bengals took the best player available rather than addressing a bigger need. As McShay points out, there are differing opinions on Williams, the eighth safety drafted. If he isn't starting by next season, the pick looks even more questionable.


Best pick: Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, first round.

Questionable pick: Trading out of the fourth and fifth rounds.

My comments: McShay compares Mingo's explosive first step to Dwight Freeney, which is quite a compliment. Mingo is still developing as a pass-rusher, but his high ceiling makes him a legitimate top-10 pick. And while the Browns got good value in trading this year's picks for next year, McShay is right that the Browns passed on safeties and guards who could have helped a last-place team this season.


Best pick: Quarterback Landry Jones, fourth round.

Questionable pick: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, first round.

My comments: I feel that Jarvis Jones was the best, and not most questionable, pick. McShay believes Jones can be a star but he wonders whether he'll last beyond three or four years. Given Jones' talent and the Steelers' need for a pass-rusher, it was a move that the Steelers had to make. Yes, there's a risk. But there's also a big reward if he plays like he did on tape. I didn't expect Landry Jones to be the choice here for best pick. His inability to handle pressure in the pocket will be a problem at this level. McShay thinks Jones could become the surprise quarterback of this class.
Drafting Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones means the end of Charlie Batch's lengthy run with the Steelers. To suggest the Steelers are grooming Jones to replace Ben Roethlisberger in a couple of years is wrong.

But that didn't stop Batch from speculating it.

"(U)ltimately, I think this isn't about replacing me," Batch told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Big picture, maybe they're thinking, 'Can we develop Landry Jones to be the starter? Maybe two years from now, he could be our guy for the next 10 years.' We don't know. But with the contracts for quarterbacks these days, he'd certainly be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ben at age 34 or 35 or 36."

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
harles LeClaire/US PresswireNow in his 30s, Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the NFL's most productive quarterbacks.
No, this was about replacing Batch and Byron Leftwich. The Steelers knew it was time to get younger at the backup quarterback spot. General manager Kevin Colbert didn't use a fourth-round pick on a quarterback thinking he was going to be the starter in Pittsburgh in 2015. This isn't like the Green Bay Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005, when they had a 36-year-old Brett Favre.

Batch will likely be proven wrong by this time next year. Roethlisberger, 31, is in line for a new contract because his salary-cap number in 2014 is nearly $19 million. That deal could ensure that Roethlisberger ends his career as a Steeler.

It's hard to accuse the Steelers of thinking about life after Roethlisberger when they're doing so many things to extend his career. They've invested two picks in the first and second rounds into their offensive line to better protect him. They're also trying to go to a more short passing game to limit the amount of hits on him.

Of course, Roethlisberger's style of play doesn't lend him to age as well as Peyton Manning. But it's not like Roethlisberger is showing any signs of slowing down with his play. He threw 17 touchdowns and four interceptions last season before getting injured.

So why did the Steelers draft Jones? It's definitely an investment. If Roethlisberger would suffer a career-ending injury, the Steelers would be in better shape for the future having a young quarterback like Jones over an aging veteran like Batch or Leftwich. The Patriots selected Ryan Mallett in the third round in 2011, when Tom Brady was 33, and it's not like New England is preparing to make a change in quarterback anytime soon. In fact, the Patriots are looking to trade Mallett for a second-round pick.

While many have been giving their opinion on whether Jones will eventually replace Roethlisberger, I find it fascinating that the Steelers drafted Jones in the first place. The Steelers used the 115th overall pick on a quarterback they didn't have any contact with until they called him on the phone Saturday to let him know he was their selection. Colbert acknowledged there's a chance Jones "will never play" for Pittsburgh, but he didn't want to pass up one of the most accomplished passers in NCAA history.

"When you have a franchise QB like we do, you don't get a lot of opportunities to add a young quarterback into the mix," Colbert said. "It's a critical position. You better keep adding young folks to that spot."
Let's take a quick look at what the division teams did in the fourth and fifth rounds:

CINCINNATI BENGALS: The Bengals added much needed speed to their linebacker group with Texas A&M's Sean Porter (fourth round). The outside linebacker is known as a blitzer and will make an immediate impact on special teams. ... Kansas G-T Tanner Hawkinson (fifth round) is a four-year starter who improved his stock in the combine drills. According to Pro Football Weekly, he is nicknamed "Ricky Bobby" because he looks like Will Ferrell.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: The Browns are obviously looking to the future on Day 3 with two trades. They sent their fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall) to the Steelers for a third-rounder in 2014. Cleveland then dealt their fifth-round pick (No. 139) to the Colts for a fourth-rounder in 2014.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: With WR Quinton Patton being selected right before their pick, the Ravens continued to go with defense, taking Ohio State DE-OLB John Simon in the fourth round. He was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year last season but may not have the athleticism for the next level. ... Harvard FB Kyle Juszczyk (fourth round) was Baltimore's first offensive player taken in this draft. This could lead to the Ravens asking FB Vonta Leach to take a pay cut. He is scheduled to earn $3 million in the final year of his contract. ... Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner (fifth round) is a gritty right tackle prospect. He could struggle with the speed of NFL pass-rushers.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: The first pick in the division on Day 3 was a Steelers-type safety. Pittsburgh traded with Cleveland to move up to take Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas, a hard-hitting, high-motor defensive back who will have a shot to start in 2014. How much did the Steelers like Thomas? They sent their 2014 third-round pick to the Browns to get him. ... The Steelers decided to go with Oklahoma's Landry Jones as their developmental quarterback. Pittsburgh took him in the fourth round, the highest the Steelers have used a pick on a quarterback since drafting Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 first round. ... Like they usually do at this point in the draft, the Steelers took a cornerback in the fifth round. Illinois' Terry Hawthorne can make athletic plays and has experience as a returner. Some questions about mental toughness linger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers joined in the run on quarterbacks in the fourth round, although they didn't take the one that had been linked to them.

The Steelers selected Oklahoma's Landry Jones with the 115th overall pick. He was the fourth quarterback drafted in the first 18 picks of the fourth round.

Most had linked the Steelers to Tennessee's Tyler Bray and Miami of Ohio's Zac Dysert. Instead, the Steelers went with Jones, who was the No. 1 quarterback in the draft on ESPN's Bill Polian's board. He said Jones has a big arm and quick release who was hurt last season by the lack of a supporting cast.

This is the highest that the Steelers have taken a quarterback since drafting Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 first round. Jones will have time to develop behind Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski, who was signed this offseason.

The addition of Jones likely means the end of Charlie Batch's Steelers career. Batch completed his 11th year in Pittsburgh, which is the second-longest current tenure of any quarterback with the same team after Tom Brady.

Jones is a pure pocket passer and won't extend plays like Roethlisberger. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since the start of the 2010 season, Jones completed 27.4 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions when forced to scramble out of the pocket.

There is also an unusual connection between Jones and Roethlisberger. Jones' wife, Whitney Hand, is a former teammate of Roethlisberger's sister, Carlee. Both played on Oklahoma's women's basketball team. Hand was drafted higher than Jones, when she was selected in the third round of the WNBA 12 days ago.

Jones is the seventh QB taken following EJ Manuel (Buffalo, first round), Geno Smith (N.Y. Jets, second round), Mike Glennon (third round, Tampa Bay), Matt Barkley (fourth round, Philadelphia), Ryan Nassib (fourth round, N.Y. Giants) and Tyler Wilson (fourth round, Oakland).