The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't draft a quarterback on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft, but the one they did in the fourth round has a chance to be the unquestioned backup during his rookie season.
That man is former Oklahoma Sooners QB Landry Jones, a guy who ended his career in Norman with over 16,000 passing yards and leaves college football third on the NCAA career-passing yardage list.
The team's official Twitter account confirmed that Jones was the pick at No. 115 overall:
Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers
With our second pick in the fourth round we have selected Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma.4/27/2013, 4:58:16 PM
After suffering through starting QB Ben Roethlisberger getting hurt and missing crucial games in the middle of the 2012 season, this is a great pick to both shore up the backup QB situation and provide a capable passer should Roethlisberger go down again in 2013.
Jones has been one of the hardest QBs to peg in this year's draft, but there's little doubt he has talent.
ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian rated Jones as the highest QB in the draft at one point during the process, raving about his ability to make all the NFL throws, his winning mentality and leadership under fire while at OU (h/t Pro Football Talk).
While he and the Sooners struggled to live up to their preseason rankings for the past three years, he does have an impressive assortment of receivers who are now in the NFL, including Detroit Lions wideout Ryan Broyles and recently drafted Kenny Stills.
Concerns about his mobility and pocket presence are there.
When the pocket is clean, he looks like the best QB in the draft, but when he feels pressure in his face or from the outside, he often rushes his throws and becomes extremely inaccurate, hence OU's inability to win its two biggest games of the season in 2012: Kansas State and Notre Dame, two teams who got all kinds of pressure on the QB.
ESPN's Trent Dilfer loves what Jones brings to the table too and notes that a look at his 2012 tape is less telling of his abilities than any other highlight film would be (h/t Jake Trotter of ESPN):
Jake Trotter @Jake_Trotter
Trent Dilfer said he threw out Landry Jones' 2012 tape: "The offense was a joke. The receivers were brutal, the play-calling was brutal."4/27/2013, 5:18:59 PM
He won't have to start right away, and the play-calling in Pittsburgh won't be erratic at all. Pittsburgh has a philosophy and sticks to it each season.
Bursting on the scene in 2009 with the injury issues surrounding Sam Bradford, Jones took over the position and never looked back. He winds up being one of the most established and successful QBs in college football history, even though those in Norman weren't satisfied with his ability to win big games or avoid pressure to make accurate throws in the pocket.
Either way, the Steelers clearly see a diamond in the rough after Jones was still around at No. 115.
If you watched the three weekends that Roethlisberger was forced out due to injury, you likely have no reservations about using a fourth-round pick to add depth and competition to a QB situation that currently only includes Bruce Gradkowski and John Parker Wilson.
Pittsburgh dropped two crucial division games (Baltimore and Cleveland) during the time Roethlisberger was out and had to rely on veteran Charlie Batch to carry the load in games that he likely should have been either coaching or watching at home.
As I mentioned, Jones wasn't the top QB available by all accounts.
He was, however, a highly rated guy with a live arm and a winner's mentality—two things that have been crucial to the success of Pittsburgh QBs throughout the years. The Steelers like tough guys, and adding Jones with the opportunity to let him grow under Roethlisberger for the next couple of years is a huge coup at this point in the draft.
With Geno Smith, EJ Manuel and Matt Barkley all off the board, adding a big, physical talent with a strong arm like Jones' fits Pittsburgh's philosophy to a head.
Hopefully this move allows the Steelers to sleep easy when Roethlisberger gets dinged up next season, because the reckless abandon that the starting QB plays with leads to situations in which he might be forced to miss time.
Jones could be one of a very small handful of rookie QBs to see extended time this season because of it.
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