PITTSBURGH – There have been questions regarding how far Steelers third-string quarterback Landry Jones has progressed since his rookie season a year ago.
Many of those questions will be answered at Heinz Field Thursday night when the Steelers face the Carolina Panthers in their final preseason game.
As he did last season, Jones is expected to start and play the entire fourth preseason game. The difference this time is, if Jones struggles, the Steelers could give up on last year’s fourth-round draft pick. Pittsburgh might look elsewhere for a third-string quarterback.
“I need to see consistent, above-the-line play in all areas,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said.
Tomlin and the Steelers haven’t seen a lot of that from Jones. He has completed 13 of 26 passes for 127 yards and one interception in the preseason, playing mostly against backups. His passer rating is 48.1, far lower than those posted by starter Ben Roethlisberger (109.2) and primary backup Bruce Gradkowski (87.5).
The pressure is on Jones to make the most of this start.
“I just want to come out and play the best I can; play how I’m capable of and make quick decisions and get the ball out of my hand,” he said.
Those were things that weren’t a major issue in college, where Jones was a four-year starter at Oklahoma and threw for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns.
But he struggled in his first preseason with the Steelers, culminated by his start against Carolina. Jones played the entire game and completed 16 of 35 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in a 25-10 loss that capped an 0-4 preseason for the Steelers.
That effort finished a preseason in which Jones completed just 45 percent of his passes (30-66) for 348 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 53.1.
“I felt I had a decent start to the game. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted to,” said Jones, who threw a first-quarter touchdown to David Paulson in that game before being intercepted three times. “I have to learn from those mistakes.”
Jones admits to being more comfortable heading into this game than he was a year ago. He knows he must play like he belongs in the NFL.
“You get to go out there with the starters,” Jones said. “It makes a huge difference, both offensively and defensively. You’re playing against their best players.
“It’s exciting to know you’ll get a lot of snaps, a lot of reps and get to play a ton. I’m excited about it.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers released 15 players Tuesday, including former California University wide receiver C.J. Goodwin, to get down to the NFL limit of 75. Others released included linebacker Vic So’oto, who forced two fumbles this preseason, defensive linemen Brian Arnfelt and Hebron Fangupo and running back Jordan Hall, a Jeannette High School graduate. … Rosters must be trimmed to 53 by Saturday. … In addition to Roethlisberger, Tomlin said that defensive end Cameron Heyward (ankle), wide receiver Lance Moore, linebackers Jason Worilds (knee) and Sean Spence (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu will be held out of Thursday’s game. … Defensive end Brett Keisel, re-signed last week, will play extensively. Tomlin wants to test Keisel’s endurance. “Our intentions are to take him to the deep end of the pool and see if he can swim,” Tomlin said.