It also might be a do-or-die situation for last year's fourth-round draft pick, because Jones hasn't progressed much since driving the Steelers 80 yards to throw a touchdown pass to David Paulson on the opening drive last year at Carolina.
Jones threw three interceptions in the second half as the Steelers lost, and he continued to struggle this preseason with an interception, two fumbles, three sacks and a passer rating of 48.1 in two appearances.
Jones will get a long look Thursday night against the Panthers, and expects to play with the first-teamers.
"It just makes a huge difference," said the all-time passing leader at Oklahoma University. "It's just a different ball game, offensively and defensively, playing against their best players, too."
Jones took most of the second-team reps in the spring, but has yet to move past veteran Bruce Gradkowski as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. In fact, another poor performance could spell the end for Jones.
Tomlin was asked what he wants to see from Jones.
"Just consistent, above-the-line play and that’s about as straight of an arrow as I can fire," Tomlin said.
And when asked if Jones' roster spot is secure, Tomlin repeated that "I need to see consistent, above-the-line play in all areas."
DISCIPLINE NOT MADE PUBLIC
"They will, but like I told this group yesterday that’s our business," Tomlin said. "It won’t come from me. I won’t talk in great detail about what we laid down in regards to dealing with the situation. But rest assured that we deal with unfortunate situations in an appropriate manner when they rise up and hopefully those two guys will show what’s capable in terms of moving past it."
DEFENSE NOT MADE PUBLIC
Tomlin was asked four questions about a pot citation, three questions about penalty flags, two questions about analytics, and one about Jones. But Tomlin wasn't asked if he'll make any changes to a first-team nickel defense -- the new "base" defense -- that's allowing an atrocious 7.3 yards per carry this preseason and 6.7 yards per snap.
The 73-yard run by the New York Giants might have been forgiven had the Philadelphia Eagles not rushed for 85 yards on 17 carries (5.0) against the Steelers' first-team nickel. The Eagles gained 373 total yards against the Steelers' first team, of which 338 were gained against the nickel.
The Eagles moved the ball easily to take a 31-7 lead. Two of the touchdowns were scored by the Eagles' second team against the Steelers' starters.
Also expected to miss Thursday's game are Roethlisberger, Sean Spence and Lance Moore. Tomlin did say that DE Brett Keisel, who was re-signed last week, will play "and really I’m interested in taking him to the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim a little bit," Tomlin said.
The Steelers had only a mild surprise in their first round of cuts yesterday.
The remaining cuts were: C/G Chris Elkin, OT Emmanuel McCoy, LS Luke Ingram, RBs Tauren Poole, Jordan Hall and Miguel Maysonet, WRs C.J. Goodwin and Kashif Moore, TE Eric Waters, S Jordan Dangerfield, and CBs Devin Smith and Lewis Toler.
The cutting of Ingram means the Steelers expect Greg Warren to recover in time for the opener from meniscus surgery.
All of the cut players are eligible to be called back to the Steelers' practice squad when the team cuts from 75 to 53 on Saturday.