Jones Joins Stiff Competition For Big Ben’s Backup
LATROBE, Pa. (93-7 THE FAN) — Being named after an NFL team’s legendary coach is already a lot to live up to, so former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, coming off a record-breaking college career, feels up to his next big challenge: earning a job with one of that team’s most storied rivals.
The Steelers rookie is the youngest of a trio including Seton-LaSalle star and former Buccaneer/Raider/Bengal Bruce Gradkowski (who caught up with “Vinnie & Cook” Monday) and Falcons/Jaguars practice squad refugee John Parker Wilson that is battling for the right to succeed fan favorite Charlie Batch as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger.
Michael Baldwin, who has covered Jones and the Sooners for The Oklahoman, caught up with Jones at Steelers training camp, where the latter feels he’s fitting in well.
“There are some protection changes and obviously huddling, which we didn’t do at OU,” Jones told the newspaper. “Those are the two biggest differences, but we had some similar route combinations.”
Having said that, watching Big Ben has been most helpful, according to the newcomer.
“It’s such a great opportunity to pick Ben’s brain, especially during camp when we’re getting ready for the season. We’ve talked about different route combinations and what he likes and dislikes,” he added.
With Byron Leftwich unable to stay healthy, and with Batch not getting any younger, the Steelers wanted to hit the “refresh” button on that part of the depth chart in 2013, hence the fourth-round selection of Jones. His 16,646 career passing yards at OU made him the Big 12’s all-time leader.
Roethlisberger, 31, overcame rib and shoulder injuries to become the leading passer in Pittsburgh Steelers history in 2012, but he is also putting himself through the preseason paces after off-season knee surgery. So although Jones may not be striving for a starting job, the role of Roethlisberger’s understudy has proven to be important nevertheless.
Jones (6’3″, 221 lbs.), 24, won 39 of his 50 games as a starter under Bob Stoops, his high-water mark coming in 2010-11 with a come-from-behind Big 12 Championship triumph over Nebraska and a Fiesta Bowl blowout of Connecticut.
As a senior he ranked fourth in all of major college football with 328.6 yards per game, tossing 30 TD’s against just 11 picks, and finishing second nationally to Nick Florence of conference rival Baylor with 4,272 total passing yards.
That was good enough to lead the Sooners to a shared Big 12 title and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Jones will be in action at some point this Saturday, when the Steelers open their exhibition slate against the New York Giants at Heinz Field on KDKA-TV at 7:30.
Click here to read the full story by Baldwin.