Steelers offense falls flat in Hall of Fame Game
CANTON, Ohio — The Steelers wanted to take a good look at Landry Jones, so they gave him four quarters to show them something.
Ultimately, it was more of what they've seen from Jones over the previous two preseasons. This time, he had some good excuses for his uneven play — no help from his teammates.
With eight offensive starters not dressed for the first of five preseason games added to a couple key drops by rookie tight end Jesse James — one denying the Steelers a touchdown and the other resulting in a turnover — and it was too much for Jones to overcome. The Steelers were kept out of the end zone in a 14-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in front of 22,364 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.
“I just wanted to see a winning performance,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Jones. “We come into these situations to win. August or no, that's what we're looking for — not only in (Jones) but all of us collectively. He's got room for improvement. Obviously some of the game-management things, delays of game, we can't have.”
Jones went 16 of 32 for 128 yards and was sacked twice. Jones was 6 of 15 in the second half and misfired on seven of his final 11 passes.
“Some good things, some bad things,” Jones said. “It will be interesting to see what it's like to go watch the film and learn from it. I missed a couple of passes. A lot of these guys have never played in the NFL before, either, so I'm sure they were nervous like me.”
Dating to his rookie year and including Sunday's game, Jones has directed 49 preseason possessions and has led the offense to 26 points. Jones' last 36 possessions have resulted in 16 points.
Jones played an entire preseason game for the second time in his career and came away with little to show for it. The last time was in preseason finale his rookie year and he came away with similar numbers — 16 of 35 for 189 yards.
“Landry's been looking awesome and really improved this camp,” guard David DeCastro said. “He's been looking really good and getting a lot of reps. He's making the most of it, which is what you want to see from a guy.”
Dri Archer led the running game with 24 yards while Cameron Stingily added 18 yards on 11 carries. Shakim Phillips caught a pair of passes for 43 yards and Archer, who played the majority of the game, hauled in 6 passes for 33 yards as the Steelers managed only 191 total yards.
Archer was one of the few bright spots on the offense.
“I thought he took a significant step from year one to year two, but that's what we expect,” Tomlin said. “He did a nice job in the offensive game, passing game, third-down game, running game, and obviously I thought he did some nice things as a kick returner, but it's just the first time out. We will continue to expect him to be a guy on the rise.”
The Steelers defense was mostly intact. The entire starting defensive line played as well as linebacker Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier and Arthur Moats.
The Steelers allowed 245 yards of total offense to the Vikings.
“I felt like we're setting a tone of being a physical defense,” Timmons said. “That's what we want to see, see how the night goes and just have fun.”
To no surprise, Tomlin decided against playing the majority of his starters and especially on offense. Tomlin has sparingly used his first team during two weeks of training camp leading to Sunday's game.
Tomlin didn't dress 20 players, including his top two quarterbacks, top three running backs and top four wide receivers.
“Just because you might be high up on the depth chart, per se, it is August and the young guys are going to play,” Tomlin said.
Jones' skill players were the likes of C.J. Goodwin, Shakim Phillips, Devin Gardner, Cameron Stingily, Jawon Chisholm and James.
James, a fifth-rounder out of Penn State, didn't have a stellar debut for his hometown team.
Following a breakdown in the defense that left rookie tight end Mycole Pruitt wide open for 34-yard touchdown late in the first half to make it 7-3, Jones led the Steelers down the field inside the 5-yard line after a 38-yard pass interference call on Trae Waynes.
The Steelers were turned away three times from the 2 and were held off the board when James dropped a fourth-down pass on what would've been a sure touchdown.
“I just didn't make the play,” James said. “Now, I've just got to get back to work. I was prepared to play, but I'm thinking about my next opportunity.”
It would happen again late in the third.
The Steelers went down 14-3 after a 62-yard punt return by Stefon Diggs down to the 1 set up Joe Banyard's touchdown run.
Following a three-and-out, the Steelers got the ball back when Kevin Fogg picked off a deflected pass to put the Steelers at the Vikings' 31.
On the ensuing play, Jones fired a pass over the middle to James, who bobbled it into Brian Peters arms. It was later ruled a fumble.
“Pre-snap penalties that defeated us, third-and-10 became third-and-15, delay of games and things of that nature on several instances,” Tomlin said. “We lost the turnover battle — we made ourselves an easy team to beat because of some of those things Not things to be excited about, but things that we will own and correct and get ready for our next opportunity.”