Landry Jones isn’t who we thought he was, much to the dismay of Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals. Up until the third year quarterback made his NFL debut, the Cardinals had been dominating every aspect of the game but the scoreboard, where they held just a 10-3 lead at the half. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense got off to a quick start, when Carson Palmer hit Malcom Floyd with a 3-yard touchdown pass to finish off a 2:47 drive that started on the Pittsburgh 47 yard line. As is typical of a Bruce Arians offense, the Cardinals racked up yards between the 20’s the rest of the way, but had only two field goals to show for it. Although the Steelers defense gave up almost 500 yards to Arizona, they were able to keep it close by clamping down when it mattered the most. This included forcing three turnovers for the third straight game, the last one being a Mike Mitchell interception in the endzone with 2:25 left in the game.
At the 6:06 mark of the second quarter the Steelers were finally able to get on the scoreboard by way of a 47 yard Chris Boswell field goal that cut the Cardinals lead to 7-3. Before the half ended, the Cardinals would add a field goal of their own to extend their lead back to a touchdown at 10-3. The Steelers got the ball to open up the second half and on that drive Michael Vick had to leave with a hamstring injury, enter Landry Jones. Throughout his first three years in the league, Jones, from the University of Oklahoma, has been labeled a bust and a wasted pick, but in the following thirty minutes he would go a long way towards changing that perception. In his half of play, the Steelers had five offensive possessions and Landry Jones lead them to scores in all of them. From the moment he entered the game, Todd Haley had the ability to open up the playbook.
To help Landry in his NFL debut was Martavis Bryant, who was returning from a four game suspension. Jones and Bryant hooked up for touchdowns of 8 and 88 yards, as the passing game quickly came back to life, while sucking the life out of the Arizona secondary. In his one half of work, Landry Jones was 8/12 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns, the benefactor of which was Bryant, who ended up with 6 receptions for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones also managed to put a smile back on the face of Antonio Brown by getting him involved in the offense again, including on a crucial third down conversion. With the Steelers trailing 10-6 on his first NFL drive, at the 8:45 mark of the 3rd quarter, Jones put the Steelers in the lead with an 8 yard strike to Martavis Bryant. The Steelers would score points on each of their next four drives.
The last score put the exclamation point on an incredible performance by Landry Jones. With 2:25 left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers took possession of the ball needing two first downs to wrap things up, but instead of running out the clock, Jones ended up hitting Martavis Bryant for the 88 yard touchdown that gave the Steelers a 25-13 lead. Mike Mitchell killed the final Arizona scoring drive by picking off a Carson Palmer pass in the endzone, just prior to Jones’s second scoring pass. It’s hard to believe this was the same Landry Jones that had fans wanting him cut in training camp. This Landry Jones operated with poise and confidence in leading the Steelers to victory. This Landry Jones is not who we thought he was. If Big Ben can’t go, this Landry Jones earned the start next week.
Some people will argue that Jones’s reason for doing well was because the Cardinals were prepared for Vick. While there might be a tad bit of validity to it, it’s not a fair assessment. The fact is that even though Jones had less practice time coming into this game than Vick had before his insertion into the lineup, He has thrown many passes between camp and preseason games. The fact is, that despite this being his first NFL action, he has two years in the system and knows it well. The difference on Sunday was, instead of throwing to CJ Philips and the like, he was throwing to Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. That is the reason he did well, along with his preparation and perseverance. He was smart enough to let his receivers do the work for him. We have now seen what the man is capable of, the only question that remains now is, can Landry Jones be consistent? For now, for one game, Jones brought the offense back to life while sucking the life out of one of the NFL’s best secondaries.