Steelers QB Jones intercepted 4 times in shutout loss to Eagles
Mike Tomlin doesn’t live in his fears and sure doesn’t hesitate to let anybody know just that.
Lucky for him, because if he did live in his fears, he would wrap Ben Roethlisberger in bubble wrap, put him in a rubber room, lock the door and not let him out until the Steelers open up the season in Washington D.C., in four weeks.
Yeah, the Steelers’ backup quarterback situation seems to be that dire right now, and Landry Jones didn’t help to ease that at all during yet another preseason loss Thursday night against the Eagles.
Jones threw four first-half interceptions — one returned for a touchdown and two others in the end zone — as the Steelers fell to 0-2 in the preseason and dropped their 13th preseason game in their past 15 with a 17-0 loss to the Eagles in front of 45,351 fans at Heinz Field.
“We need to get better,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes it is playmaking by them and sometimes it is negligence by us.”
On this occasion, it was a lot more negligence than anything else whether it was the quarterbacks or the receivers.
“The bottom line is that us as a unit or team has got to do a better job of securing the ball,” Tomlin said.
Jones, who played with the majority of the first-team offensive line for the entire first half, completed 12 of 20 passes for 111 yards and spread the ball around to seven receivers. But he had a combination of bad luck and bad throws that made even the most devout Jones supporters thinking twice.
To put the four interceptions into perspective, a quarterback has thrown more than four interceptions in an entire preseason only twice over the past decade and that was little-known third-stringer Bryan Bennett of the Colts last year and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick during his rookie year.
Jones did it in 20 fewer throws and in fewer than 30 minutes, but never lost confidence.
“You have to make it a learning experience,” Jones said. “Things like that are going to happen. You are going to play bad. You aren’t going to play like you want to. You learn from it and you move on.”
Last year, Jones threw two picks in 229 snaps over five preseason games. In his previous three years, he threw six total interceptions.
“He did a good job, he stayed calm,” Coates said. “He knows his wide receivers have to make plays for him and we didn’t do a good job of that.”
It’s not like the Steelers have much of a choice behind Roethlisberger.
Bruce Gradkowski sat out of Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury that he suffered last year that could ultimately cost him a roster spot. Dustin Vaughan — the fourth quarterback on the roster — didn’t do much in the second half to help his cause. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 67 yards and was sacked an alarming four times in 17 drop backs.
“The thing for quarterbacks is able to get the ball out quick and make quick and decisive decisions,” Vaughan said. “There were a couple times today that I felt that I needed to be a little bit more decisive and get the ball out of my hands.”
The Steelers gained 207 total yards including only 46 in the second half.
“We had a couple of turnovers on offense,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We will look at the film and see how we can adjust it. But I think overall we had great protection and some good runs.”
In Jones’ defense, he didn’t have the surrounding cast available to him like he did last year when he had a spot start for the injured Roethlisberger.
Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, Ladarius Green and DeAngelo Williams were held out for the second consecutive game, forcing Jones to work with players who have a combined nine career catches in the NFL — Jesse James, Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers.
“We did some good things,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Let’s see what happens when we get our starters in there. But we aren’t going to make excuses. We will live with what we have right now.”
Rogers caught 4 for 39 and looked good playing in the slot, but that’s about where it ended. The Jones-to-Coates connection was off all day and especially early.
On the first play of the second drive, Jones and Coates weren’t on the same page. Coates sat down over the middle and Jones threw to the hash mark, where Nolan Carroll picked it off and raced 38 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
“Games like this, things like that is going to happen,” Jones said. “I felt like my rhythm and timing was normal on what I do on the curl.
Coates took blame for the first interception.
“I should’ve came off the ball harder, it was all my fault,” Coates said. “That’s not on the quarterback at all. That’s all my fault.”
Jones rebounded nicely on the next drive, converting six first downs. He connected with Rogers twice and Fitz Toussaint, and added 20 yards rushing as Jones led the offense down to the 8-yard line.
Jones’ third-down pass into the end zone bounced off Cobi Hamilton and into the hands of Malcolm Jenkins. Aaron Grymes picked off Jones late in the half and Jaylen Watkins grabbed the fourth with 46 seconds left in the half.
The offensive ineptitude overshadowed solid play by the defense, especially the first team, which played midway into the second quarter.
“I think we got one sack in the first half,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “Obviously we got some pressure, but there were more opportunities we could have capitalized on. I liked our run defense. Our guys were flying around.”
The Steelers allowed 298 total yards and only one offensive touchdown.
“I felt like we had a real good couple of series this week,” linebacker Arthur Moats said. “I felt like we bounced back from last week where we weren’t getting off the field on third downs. We executed a lot better this week.”