Yes, it's true, Steelers quarterback Landry Jones made some rookie-like mistakes in the Steelers 23-13 loss at Kansas City on Sunday, the first start of Jones' three-year NFL career.
Despite the rave reviews for Jones following his performance against the Cardinals the week before, when he came on early in the third quarter and passed for 168 yards and two scores, leading Pittsburgh to a very satisfying victory, you knew the young quarterback was probably going to experience growing-pains against the Chiefs at noisy Arrowhead Stadium.
Sure enough, Jones did things what most green quarterbacks do, like allow defenders to read his eyes by staring down his receivers. Such was the case on Jones' first interception near the end of the second quarter, when he was intercepted by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson on a pass over the middle. Jones also threw another pick in the third quarter and fumbled what was left of Pittsburgh's chances away when he was sacked very late in the fourth quarter.
But the one thing that has defined this Steelers 2015 season is various people stepping up at key times and making critical plays. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, you saw very little of that on Sunday, especially on defense, where the unit failed to record a takeaway for only the second time this year.
Despite only taking the football away nine times in 2015, most have been timely and fruitful. One or two against the Chiefs on Sunday, and the outcome could have been different, and people would have spent the rest of the week writing about the resiliency of a team that was missing so many key players--including Ben Roethlisberger, who missed his fourth-straight game with a sprained MCL. Not only didn't Pittsburgh's defense record a takeaway against the Chiefs, it allowed their offense to amass 377 total yards--including 138 on the ground despite the absence of running back Jamaal Charles.
And even though quarterback Alex Smith had been sacked 23 times in Kansas City's first six games, and even though the Steelers defense went into Arrowhead Stadium with a surprising 17 sacks, the unit could only take Smith down two times in the game, as the veteran quarterback was afforded decent protection and passed for 251 yards and a score.
Late in the game, after Pittsburgh had crawled back to within three points at 16-13, the defense could have shut the door on the Chiefs one more time and allowed Jones to perhaps have another fantastic ending. Instead, Kansas City marched right down the field and put the game away on touchdown from Smith to Chris Conley.
Back to the offense. This may seem like second-guessing, but while analyzing Sunday's game, it felt curious that running back Le'Veon Bell, unquestionably the offense's most important player in Roethlisberger's absence, only had 17 carries on the day. Yes, those 17 carries added up to 121 yards on the ground, but we'll never know what may have resulted in five or 10 more totes of the rock. And even before Chris Boswell came on to hit a 23-yard field goal to tie the score at three late in the first quarter, I was asking why Bell wasn't the primary target out of the backfield one play earlier on that third and two from the Chiefs' six-yard line. Bell is not only one of the top backs in the NFL right now, he's clearly the best at catching balls out of the backfield. Yet, it was DeAngelo Williams who had his number called on a pass, one that hit him right in the hands and one that he dropped.
Overall, you have to like how the Steelers have responded over the past month with Roethlisberger out of action. Much like the Ravens' game on October 1, however, Sunday's contest in Kansas City was there for the taking, but few people stepped up to assist an inexperienced quarterback who could have used a boost.