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Steel Mill A.M.: Landry Jones, now a veteran mentor, focuses on healing, preparing for season

Chris Adamski
| Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, 8:32 a.m.
Steelers quarterback Landry Jones returns to practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Landry Jones returns to practice Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2017, at St. Vincent.

Two years after perhaps playing more preseason snaps than any quarterback in the past quarter century, Landry Jones hasn't yet taken one.

Midway through the 2017 preseason, Jones has stood on the sidelines and watched the Steelers play the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, not unlike the role starter Ben Roethlisberger has taken for the exhibition games.

Now in his fifth year, Jones is a bona fide veteran — even if he is one with just four starts and over his NFL regular-season career. So while an abdominal injury suffered early in training camp that has limited his practice reps and preseason game snaps is far from ideal, it isn't as debilitating as it might have been had it happened when Jones was, say, a rookie or second-year player.

“I feel like that's fair to say,” Jones said. “You never want to miss the significant time that I have missed, but as far as right now, I'm just trying to get back and get healthy.”

Jones has thrown 141 passes in regular season games in his career, one in which the 2013 fourth-round pick spent the first 2 ½ seasons as the No. 3 quarterback and has been Roethlisberger's backup since midway through the 2015 season.

It was in that preseason in which Jones almost threw as many passes (120) as he has in his entire regular-season career. Entering his third season and with backup Bruce Gradkowski ailing and with the Steelers eager to make a decision regarding Jones' career, Jones played extensively in the 2015 preseason, one that had the added bonus of a rare fifth game for the Steelers.

In the two years since, the Steelers saw enough they liked in Jones they not only promoted him to No. 2, they gave him a new contract this past offseason. He's an established known — not viewed as the franchise quarterback of the future but as a quality, serviceable backup.

Jones played 229 snaps (72 percent of the Steelers' offensive total) in 2015; so far in 2017, that's fallen to zero and 0%.

While injury is the primary driver of that, practice reps and preseason game snaps are now better allocated to rookie Joshua Dobbs, whom the Steelers want to evaluate to figure out his future.

That's relegated Jones, now 28, to the role of savvy veteran mentor — a quick turnaround from where he was 24 months ago: still the youngster who was soaking up all he could from the older Roethlisberger and Gradkowski.

“He's been a great resource on the sideline,” Dobbs said of Jones, “coming with the tablet, going with the different looks, talking about his process when he comes to the sideline, his thought process on different plays and different looks, just his overall approach each day and for games… I have learned a lot from him.”

But as much as Jones is willing to take Dobbs under his wing, he's more eager to get back to playing. Monday, Jones said he intends to be cleared to play in Saturday's preseason Game No. 3, at home against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Steelers practice Wednesday and Thursday; Jones described his injury as “truly day-to-day.” Last week, he came out to practices in full pads and uniform but only handed off and did not throw. He was in uniform for the Steelers preseason win Sunday, but so were a handful of other injured players who did not get into the game,

“It's just the throwing motion (that's causing problems),” Jones said. “I hurt it throwing, so whenever that starts feeling good I will be back out there.”

While that can't come too soon for Jones or the Steelers, now a veteran, Jones isn't as much in need of practice and game reps as he was just a couple of years ago.

As Jones points out, his lack of practice reps or game time isn't at all unlike how things will be over the 17 weeks that cover the regular season, anyway.

“It's not like I'm out there getting all the reps in the season,” Jones said. “So it is kind of like old hat now.”

Jones said he feels comfortable at this point that he will be ready to be available if needed for the Steelers' Sept. 10 opener at Cleveland.

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