Rookie QB Jones gets first work as a Steeler

By Alan Robinson
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013

Quarterback Landry Jones, the Steelers' fourth-round pick, works out at rookie camp Friday, May 3, 2013 on the South Side.

Landry Jones reported to the Steelers two days ago and immediately was handed a playbook the size of the one he had at Oklahoma.

That was only the beginning for the first quarterback drafted by the Steelers in anything other than a late round since 2004.

On Friday morning, Jones was running plays from that book — and, yes, the Steelers still have an old-fashioned printed playbook — or at least he was attempting to do that during the first day of the Steelers' three-day rookie minicamp.

A lot of passes fluttered. Some were offline. Others weren't thrown with the velocity of someone who was projected to be a first-round draft pick slightly more than a year ago.

Afterward, he said many of the same things that Ben Roethlisberger said after his rookie camp in May 2004. The game is a lot faster. There is a whole lot to remember. And the terminology is completely different.

“I had a lot of fun, but obviously there's still a lot of learning for me,” said Jones, who wore a gold No. 3 practice jersey on his first day of professional football. “Just putting in the whole offense today and getting into it. It's always different when you have something new you're not familiar with.”

At least there's one friendly face in wide receiver Justin Brown, the former Penn State player who transferred to Oklahoma last season and became Jones' favorite target.

There was one misconception Jones wanted to clear up immediately: He did not grow up in New Mexico as a Cowboys fan, something he knows wouldn't go over well in Pittsburgh. His dad was a Cowboys fan, hence the name Landry — as in Tom Landry, the former Dallas coach.

Jones, a fourth-round pick, was brought in partly because, as quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said, the Steelers wanted to “freshen up the room, if you will” with younger quarterbacks.

They went with Charlie Batch, 38, and Byron Leftwich, 33, last season; now the backups are Bruce Gradkowski, 30, and Jones, 24. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Jones was the best of the Steelers' nine draft picks and could be the surprise quarterback in the Class of 2013.

“Landry is in a great spot to be here right now,” Fichtner said.

Still, it's not as if Jones is the already-annointed heir to Roethlisberger, who will be 31 this season and would appear to have a number of seasons remaining in his career.

Rather, the Steelers saw the opportunity to bring in a polished and experienced college quarterback who will be given a lot of practice work, and it will be up to him what he does with it.

“I have no idea,” Jones said of the Steelers' plans for him. “You might want to talk to the coaches or Mr. Rooney about what they want to do with me. I'm just here to learn football. They're giving me an opportunity to come play, so I'm here just to play some football.

“It's surreal to be here.”

As anyone named Landry in Pittsburgh might feel.

Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook