Steelers Third-String QB Position: Landry Jones Versus John Parker Wilson

Aug 15th, 2013 by Lori Paddock

I have been thinking about this topic on and off since the draft, where I was surprised to see the Steelers pick up a QB in the fourth round. When camp started, I was hoping we would hear a little more about the capabilities (in an NFL-style setting) of Landry Jones and John Parker Wilson. Unlike some faithful fans, Iíve never been convinced that L. Jones was going to be an automatic fit to the NFL. Iím not denying he has talent and did well in college, so donít read into this that I am going to slam Landry Jones.

Now that the Steelers are past their first preseason game and all four quarterbacks played, you can perhaps make some assessments about the quarterbacks. Iíve read several blogs who suggest some and they all make great points. Mike Dyce, at FanSided NFL; Ivan Cole, at Behind the Steel Curtain; Mark Marczi at Steelers Depot have some good takes.

Why should this even be discussed? Landry Jones was drafted and he has to be put on the active roster, right? Well, thatís one school of thought. I can see that perspective, but it doesnít leave me comfortable. Being drafted doesnít make L. Jones competent. Also, there really doesnít seem to be enough information to evaluate one way or the other. Additionally, the Steelersí track record of developing young QB talent when it is sitting at third string is suspect. The most recent example of Dennis Dixon comes to mind.

Itís the third string position, who cares? If Roethlisbergerís history has taught us anything, the back up positions matter. Bruce Gradkowski is second string and that doesnít seem to be up for debate. He looked poised and controlled with his first time out with the Steelers. So what about L. Jones and John Parker Wilson? Iím not sure they have been seen in the best light since neither really get first-team reps or played with the first-team during Saturdayís game. However, from what I see, Iím not sure it will be an easy decision about who to keep at the 3rd QB position.

During the game, I didnít get a feeling of confidence from L. Jones. I donít know if it was the adreneline or the speed of play, but I thought L. Jones looked hesitant and somewhat confused. Maybe I was looking for that though because L. Jones got some unfavorable press before the game (see PPG article). Gerry Dulac stated that L. Jones had struggled during the first two weeks of camp and Tomlin was quoted:

[Jones has] done some good things, but, obviously, what he does in stadiums is really going to be the litmus of where he isĒ

Well, after the fumble from the collision with Baron Batch and the Giantsí safety, Landry Jones was trending on Twitter and NOT in a good way. Iím not sure he is going to get favorable press for a while; however, I donít think it will live on as long as the butt fumble has.

On the other side, I thought Wilson looked stronger in the pocket Iím not saying that John Parker Wilson should be the choice either; however, he was getting a lot of positive ďpressĒ during camp before the Giants game. Again, maybe I was looking for that because of what I read. I saw at least two tweets from Mark Kaboly, of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, that Wilson looked good at QB and had a strong arm. James Wexell, who is a columnist for the Steel City Insider and writes for the Uniontown Herald, tweeted that Wilson looked terrible during spring OTAs but great during camp. None of that makes Wilson an obvious pick for the third position, but you have to think that the Steelers are factoring that into their decision.

So, what about the game stats? Landry Jones was in for four series and the only score was the safety for the Giants. He completed 5 out of 9 passes for 48 yards and he wasnít sacked at all. I noticed that most of his passes were short passes, as if Haley was keeping a tight rein on him. John Parker Wilson was in for three series and was sacked FOUR times. FOUR! He completed 4 out of 5 passes for 35 yards and no score. While Iím sure you canít divorce Wilson from all responsibility for the sacks he took, I saw defensive lineman just breaking through the line without much trouble, so Iím not sure Wilson got a fair look either. He also stuck to short passes and I wasnít surprised by that.

Whatís my conclusion? Good question. Iím not sure. First, I beg the Landry Jones fans to not take this personally. Iím not against him. I just donít think he should be the automatic third string because he was drafted. But, why draft him if you arenít going to keep him? Well, not everyone works out for the team that drafts him. So, my bottom line is, donít decide on the third string just yet. Iíd like to see more from both. I also donít think that the Steelers should be wed to either one. The QB pool is a little deeper (for third-string positions) than tight ends I would think. Perhaps there should be some ďout-of-the-boxĒ thinking here. Second bottom line: Donít think the third string quarterback position doesnít matter. Did you hear the collective gasp out of New England when Tom Brady was writhing in pain on the ground like a English Premier League soccer player? All of a sudden there was a spotlight shining on Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow. Patriots fans saw their dreams of a championship season threatened because Brady might be injured and confidence is low in Mallett and Tebow. This is a quarterback-driven league. All three QB positions matter; they matter a great deal.