PITTSBURGH – As improbable as the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory was in San Diego last week – and the way it went down was stunning – Sunday’s win over Arizona at Heinz Field was even more shocking.
Nobody who has watched any of the past three preseasons could have expected Landry Jones to come off the bench and look like the second coming of all-time great backups Earl Morrall, Doug Flutie or Jeff Hostetler.
Heck, nobody who had seen Jones take a snap at any point in his NFL preseason career expected him to look like anything but the second coming of Mike Vick.
Until he didn’t.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he had found a quarterback following the team’s 25-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Even Tomlin seemed a little stunned with what he had just witnessed.
“You know, we have some options here,” Tomlin said. “We’ll deal with those at the appropriate time.”
When asked later about his QB situation, Tomlin again didn’t spend too much time handing out awards to Jones.
“I want complete clarity,” said Tomlin when asked how he’ll pick a quarterback next week at Kansas City. “But I don’t always get what I want. We’ll go day-by-day and do what we think is appropriate.”
Here’s the Steelers’ situation: We have now seen enough of Vick to know that the only question to which he is the appropriate answer is what quarterback is the all-time leading rusher at the position?
Outside of that, his quarterback skills have diminished to the point that he had to complete a 7-yard pass late in the first half Sunday to get the Steelers above negative yards in that category.
Then, there is Jones, the much-maligned third-year player who led all quarterbacks in preseason pass attempts only because the Steelers didn’t want to play Ben Roethlisberger and Bruce Gradkowski had a bad arm.
Ideally, they’d like Roethlisberger to return from his sprained MCL, which is a possibility.
But at least for one day, Jones was the man, throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns to help the Steelers improve to 2-1 without Roethlisberger.
* Speaking of finds, linebacker James Harrison asked his sons what they thought of Sunday’s game as he dressed at his locker.
“I think you found a kicker,” James Jr. astutely replied.
Young James should get a trophy for that revelation. But somebody else can give it to him. Perhaps Chris Boswell.
Boswell had no problems kicking on a cold, windy, rainy day at Heinz Field, nailing all four of his field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder.
What did the elder Harrison think of Boswell’s performance?
“Clutch,” said Harrison. “Clutch.”
When you’re a kicker and you get Harrison’s approval, perhaps you should get a trophy.
* The Cardinals rolled up all kinds of yardage Sunday, gaining 469. But they went 1-4 in the red zone and scored 13 points. I’ve seen that offense before – from the Steelers when Bruce Arians was coordinator here.
All the deep passes are great. And you can certainly win that way. But the Steelers, despite giving up passes of 45, 44, 42 and 33 yards, didn’t allow anything to get behind them.
“We bent but we didn’t break,” said linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
They bent a lot. But when push came to shove, the Cardinals couldn’t physically handle the Steelers at the line of scrimmage.
They rushed for just 2.8 yards per carry with a long run of 11 yards. And at some point, you have to be able to line up and run it.
* Alejandro Villanueva will be the Steelers’ starting left tackle the rest of the way after Kelvin Beachum was lost in the second quarter Sunday.
Tomlin said he didn’t notice Villanueva in the game, which was a good thing. But I certainly noticed the big man pulling on a Le’Veon Bell run in the third quarter, delivering a mashing block.
What did Villanueva think of his performance?
“I can play a lot better and my coaches expect me to play a lot better,” said Villanueva.
* Did you see Tomlin at the end of the game, thumping his chest over and over again? He knows his team displayed a lot of heart getting through this stretch of three games without Roethlisberger with a 2-1 record.
“We had an opportunity to rise up in a big way and we did,” said Tomlin. “Hopefully, an experience like this galvanizes this group.”
It certainly couldn’t hurt.
* Martavis Bryant is, well, pretty good.
We knew in the offseason when we saw him running patterns that he had become a more complete receiver.
But if there was still any doubt, that should be erased. He had six catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns with Vick and Jones throwing him the ball.
“He’s the biggest, fastest guy on the field,” said Lawrence Timmons. “He’s a freak of nature, a Megatron, if you will.”
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