Who will be the Steelers’ starting quarterback of the future?
Right now, the huge favorite is Mason Rudolph, the 2018 third-round pick out of Oklahoma State, who made his professional football debut in the second half of Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and proceeded to complete seven of 12 passes for 101 yards.
Josh Dobbs, the 2017 fourth-round pick out of Tennessee, also acquitted himself quite well in Philadelphia, leading the Steelers on two touchdown drives while showing off the power of both his arm and legs.
As for Landry Jones, the 2013 fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, it was business as it’s never been for him in these August football games.
Yes, the man who, as Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin once quipped, “logged more snaps than anybody in the history of preseason football,” put in the amount of work Ben Roethlisberger once did during the preseason, before it became the norm to protect him from danger.
Jones logged just three series against the Eagles and, speaking of danger, was sacked two times while playing behind a line that didn’t include most of its highly-accomplished starters. Yet, he still managed to complete all four of his passes, including a 71-yard touchdown strike to second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, before calling it a night.
I think it’s long-since been established that Jones will never be anything but a backup quarterback — at least as a member of the Steelers. But this doesn’t mean his role isn’t one of value.
While many people believe (or at least openly wish) the rookie Rudolph has a chance to unseat Jones for the backup slot this summer, Thursday’s playing time for all three non-starting quarterbacks certainly didn’t seem to indicate that.
Obviously, that could all change over the course of the next few weeks, as Rudolph continues to learn the offense and get comfortable at the professional level. For that matter, Dobbs could continue to play well in these next three games and give Tomlin and Company a really tough decision to make come final cut-down day — whether to keep Dobbs over Jones, of course.
As for right now, Jones appears to be a safe bet to continue as Roethlisberger’s backup in 2018. But is he the heir-apparent long-term? After five years of logging all of those preseason snaps, as well as a few hundred regular-season and postseason snaps, Jones’ body of work certainly doesn’t suggest this is even a remote possibility.
But it has long-since been established that the Steelers drafted Jones with the intent of getting a young backup quarterback into their system to learn their offense and be able to have it function as close to normal as possible in the unfortunate event that Roethlisberger had to miss any games (although, it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have scoffed at Jones turning into a legit successor).
Many aren’t going to agree with this, but Jones made good on his end of the deal by becoming the Steelers’ long-term backup quarterback to Roethlisberger. Landry Jones might not be the future starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s going to be their backup for at least one more season.