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Landry Jones impressing Steelers teammates with confidence

The Steelers returned to the practice field Wednesday in preparation for the Cleveland Browns. Here's what's happening:

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger didn't practice Wednesday, and instead of meeting with the media he limped to and from rehab for his mid-foot sprain.

But the door is "slightly ajar," according to Mike Tomlin, meaning that Roethlisberger has a slight chance to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

That means Landry Jones has assumed command of both the huddle and the Wednesday grilling from the media. And as expected, he handled both calmly and coolly.

"I think that comes with experience," said Jones. "I’m a pretty easygoing guy, but when you get thrown into the fire like that you grab some experience from it. Being in it now for a couple games it’s just kind of calmed me down a little bit."

He's kind of calmed down a lot. Teammates remember not too long ago when Jones was just another nobody who could barely -- if at all -- spit out the play in the huddle.

"He was just a guy," said guard Ramon Foster. "And you weren't too sure about what he was going to do. Now you've got a sense of confidence.

"I remember last year," Foster added, "one issue he had was standing in the pocket unaware of what was going on around him thinking the pocket was going to last the entire eight seconds that he had the ball. And we're seeing that growth from him now. He's getting rid of the ball when he has to and knowing where his guys are. He's very precise now. He threw a ball one of the last plays of practice and it was very precise. He's on top of everything now. He's becoming savvy with it."

Jones, in his third NFL season, made his NFL debut a month ago when Mike Vick went down against the Arizona Cardinals. Jones completed 8 of 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns to rally the Steelers from a 10-6 deficit to win 25-13.

But in his first start at Kansas City, Jones had a passer rating of 60.8 and the Steelers lost 23-13.

Roethlisberger was injured again last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Jones stepped in and completed 4 of 6 passes and led the Steelers to the game-winning field goal.

Through the start and two "saves," Jones has an outstanding passer rating of 95.7, but he's still looking to win his first start. To that end, his teammates are gaining confidence as Jones shows in the huddle that he's become calm and collected.

"That's what we want from him, especially being a young guy," said Foster. "He was very calm about it Sunday. His voice was a little high-pitched but other than that, man, he was really on point. You could tell he's been in his playbook and he's working on saying the calls, because they can get a little long-winded and it was easy for him. That's what you want."


Jesse James, like Matt Spaeth eight years before him, scored a touchdown in his first NFL game. But the four-yard scoring play that gave the Steelers a 35-21 lead in the fourth quarter Sunday ranks third on James' list of personal favorite plays from the game.

"The 53-yard run by Delo was a great play," James said of DeAngelo Williams. On that play, James, the rookie tight end from Penn State, blew Ray-Ray Armstrong off the left side of the line.

"Martavis' TD was a good play, too," James said with a smile.

Of course, that was the play that stands out on tape. James took out two Raiders while acting as a one-man screen for Martavis Bryant, who used the open sideline for a 14-yard touchdown reception.
"Yeah, it was a great play," James said. "I got my hands on a guy and just kept my feet moving. Obviously Martavius made the rest happen."

James said he watched tape of the play in the tight ends room but heard nothing from his coach, James Daniel, other than "critiquing of technique," James said. "Obviously you can always improve in that area."

Did Daniel even tell James he had made a great play? Did he rewind the tape and make the others take notes?

"Uhhh, no," James said. "The standard is the standard. You've just got to go out there and play. It's expected."


The Browns finished last in the NFL in run defense last year so they said goodbye to big men Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor and replaced them with free-agent Randy Starks and first-round pick Danny Shelton.

Shelton, a 340-pounder, was the 12th pick of the draft and has started every game at nose tackle for the Browns. He's made 19 tackles so far.

"He's a big body in there, for sure," said Steelers center Cody Wallace. "He's one of those big, run-stuffing noses and has a little bit of quickness. He stays in the nickel so they can get that push in the middle of the pocket. He's a good player."

Yet, the Browns still rank dead last against the run. And their average allowed per carry has falled from last year's 4.5 to 4.7 this year.

"I haven't looked at the statistics," Wallace said. "I've just watched film on it. They've got big bodies in there. (ILB Karlos) Dansby's been a good player for a long time and they got Starks from Miami and he's playing well against the run. It'll be a big challenge. It's always a tough one when it's a division game."


Joining Roethlisberger on the sidelines at Wednesday's practice were TE Spaeth (knee), ILB Ryan Shazier (knee), RB Williams (foot), OLB James Harrison (knee), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), SS Will Allen (back), RT Marcus Gilbert (toe) and SS Shamarko Thomas (Knee). Limited were LB Terence Garvin (knee), RB Isaiah Pead (knee) and NT Steve McLendon (elbow).

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