By Matthew Marczi
It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.
That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.
Player: Landry Jones
Draft Status: 4th round (115th overall)
It’s been no secret that the majority of the Steelers’ fan base was not thrilled with the selection of quarterback Landry Jones in the middle of the fourth round of this past NFL Draft.
That a quarterback was taken so high when a franchise quarterback is already in place and a competent back up was also signed in the offseason was, for many who follow the team, already bad enough.
But to make matters worse, the Steelers elected to trade away a future third-round pick in order to acquire the 2013 fourth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, which was just four spots ahead of where the Steelers were already drafting.
Pittsburgh used that first fourth-round pick to draft safety Shamarko Thomas, which many believe would have still been available just a few picks later. Most would be in agreement that they would rather have Thomas and a 2014 third-round pick than to have Thomas and Jones in 2013.
In other words, Jones came to Pittsburgh already with a lot of animosity toward him before setting foot in the team facility. However, with the departure of Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, the team’s two long-time backup quarterbacks, it was necessary to get another body into the room in addition to Bruce Gradkowski.
Did it have to be Jones? Of course not. But the Steelers liked something about him, as did some former scouts and general managers. Some argued that his college production in his final two seasons was hindered by a new coaching staff and a new system and that his true potential was shown a couple years back.
That didn’t really show up when it came time to play in the preseason, but even before that, several writers including Jim Wexell commented on just how unimpressive his arm looked, which was unable to cut through the Pittsburgh wind during practices.
Simply put, Jones did not look very good during the preseason, both from a statistical and technical standpoint. He completed just 30 of 66 passes for 348 yards, and while he threw two touchdown passes—one of which was a nice deep ball to Markus Wheaton—he also threw three interceptions as he unraveled against the Carolina Panthers.
Needless to say, the Steelers would like to see a lot of improvement from Jones next year, even though he still won’t be counted on as the backup quarterback. And realistically, that is his long-term potential.
If he can’t reach that point by the end of his rookie contract, then we can truly look back on the team’s moves in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and call it a big miss. Of course, we still have plenty of time before that, but that won’t stop the debates that began the second his named was called.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le’Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas