Landry Jones isn’t your typical NFL quarterback. He isn’t trying to be in the media, and he isn’t so familiar that he’s in the middle of controversy. He’s a quiet, laid back man playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and trying to find his football identity. What he does know is that his faith is strong. It keeps him grounded and focused.
Jones is planning on making the second start of his career against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field. He let the first start get to him. In his first start against the Chiefs, Jones threw two interceptions and had a fumble. The Steelers lost that game 23-13, and Jones took it personally.
“To be honest with you, I just have to go out there and play,” Jones said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I can’t play timid. I can’t worry about mistakes and worry about the future. I just have to cut it loose.”
When coming in after late injuries to Big Ben and Michael Vick, Jones is 2-0 in save appearances. He seems to be better coming in as the reliever. Jones admits that it’s easier coming in as a backup rather than starting. He’s had time to watch the game and get a grasp on what works and what doesn’t.
“You can’t over-think things,” he said. “You just have to go make plays within the offense. In the Kansas City game, I was trying to do too much. I just have to go out there and play.”
That desire to do too much is firmly understood by Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin wants Jones to settle into a flow and do what it takes to win, outside of causing turnovers. Per ESPN, Tomlin was blunt and straight forward as usual.
“When you make it that black and white, it makes no bones about what’s expected, allows him to have a crystal clear focus and how he needs to remain in spite of things that may or may not occur.”
Jones has taken the coaching advice to heart and also looked inside himself. He seems to be more calm and steady going into his next start. He’s been reciting Psalms 16:5 to himself and those around him. It tells the tale of his journey in the NFL thus far.
“God holds your lot. He has my future laid out for me,” Jones said about the verse. “That takes the pressure off me. Whether I’m here, another team, whatever, it takes the pressure off me knowing He has my future. I can go out there and kind of play aggressive and play the way I want to play.”
The Steelers’ running game will provide a huge lift for Jones’ faith. DeAngelo Williams is playing lights-out in his three starts. He’s averaging close to 125 yards per game. If Jones can manage to stay calm and the staff provides him with a run-heavy game plan, he’ll be able to walk away with a victory Sunday. The Cleveland Browns’ dismal defense is ranked last in the league against the run.
Jones has been in the system for three years now and knows the plays. The key is to trust Todd Haley and run the plan faithfully. It’s a matter of not over thinking and reacting.
If Jones has truly made the transition from the Chiefs game and understands the simplicity of the task ahead, the Steelers should be 6-4 and well on their way to turning the season around. With the horrendous play of the AFC, 9-7 would be enough for the playoffs. But with the Steelers’ running game starting to peak, winning the division may not be so outlandish if the Bengals start to slip.
The test of Jones’ faith starts with Cleveland.
[Photo by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]