After being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, Landry Jones became the highest drafted quarterback by the Steelers since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
It would be fair to say that his selection raised more than a few eyebrows amongst fans.. Those eyebrows climbed even higher when Jones went for 348 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in pre-season, giving him a completion percentage of 45% and passer rating of 53.1
In an article written by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Jones identified the main issue he has to work on as he continues to develop.
"Probably some accuracy issues," said Jones, "just throwing in tighter windows, that’s one of the bigger things...the windows were a lot bigger [in college], everything contracts; it's a lot different here."
Transitioning from college to the NFL can be a very difficult process for many quarterbacks, especially with the proliferation of spread offenses that rarely have the quarterback taking snaps from under center. This was the case for Jones, who took snaps from the shotgun or pistol almost exclusively whilst playing at Oklahoma.
In college, Jones would take a snap and make a quick, often predetermined throw. In the NFL quarterbacks are required not only to take a good portion of snaps from under center, but to make a series of progressions and reads on almost all throws. This is something Jones has understandably struggled to adapt to.
"It’s one of those things, you come in as a rookie and everything is moving so fast and you’re not used to the protections, you’re not used to playing under center and all that," Jones said. "It’s just a whole different game from college."
Jones used the off-season to continue improving, working out with Chicago Bears backup quarterback Jordan Palmer and Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. Now he is working out with the team at OTAs.
Some hoped Jones could be Ben Roethlisberger's heir, ready to take over the reigns once the Steelers legend retires or moves on. However there are more than a few holes to be poked in that belief.
For starters, Roethlisberger played every offensive snap in 2013 and showed very few, if any signs of slowing down. With Hayley's offense designed to limit hits on Roethlisberger, actual playing time could be very sparse for Jones.
Second, a higher-power willing, the 32 year old Roethlisberger could hope to play five, maybe six more years of football for the Steelers. That would leave the now 25 year old Jones languishing behind Ben on the Steelers depth chart untill he's over 30. A pretty unrealistic scenario all round.
For now Landy Jones' aspirations should be a bit more modest. He didn't suit up for a single game in his rookie season nor did he have a role on the Steelers scout team in practice. Both those jobs went to the Steelers No.2 quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, a solid 31 year old veteran.
Jones' short term goal is to have a good, solid camp and then put on a show in preseason. Long term he is looking to supplant Gradkowski as the Steelers no.2 guy. For his part Jones says he is just focused on getting better, as he should be.
"I don’t really know," Jones said when discussing the prospect of climbing the depth chart. "I don’t try to get into all the politics of that or challenging for No. 2 or anything like that. I’m just going to try to come out here and get better and where the chips fall, they fall."