Is A Healthy Landry Jones Better Than A Banged Up Ben?

Let me preface this article by saying, Landry Jones is NOT Ben Roethlisberger.

I think we all know that, but I wanted to make it clear, just in case.

What we’re all trying to decide, including Big Ben and the coaching staff and trainers, is, will a potentially injured Ben Roethlisberger help this team? Or will a banged up Big Ben hurt this team?

Roethlisberger intimated as much when speaking on his weekly radio show, when asked about the decision to keep Landry Jones in the game and not go with Ben, until the final drive:

The intent was not to come back in the game at that moment, because… We felt, one, that Landry at 100% was better than me at 50, or whatever percentage I was… We had the lead, we just had to hold onto it…

I told Coach Tomlin… I was honest… I don’t want to just say, I don’t want to come out “coach put me in.” Because I never want to hurt the team. You don’t go in the game to just try and be a tough guy, if you’re gonna hurt you’re team, if you’re not healthy enough to help the team, you don’t go out there and make it worse, hurt the team worse.

Roethlisberger stated that he has a sprained AC joint and torn ligaments. His status is up in the air for Sunday’s Divisional matchup with the Denver Broncos, as the quarterback having not thrown a pass since Saturday’s game. During Wednesday and Thursday’s practices, Ben was taking “mental reps” and handing off the ball, while Landry Jones is working with the first team taking all of the reps.

While I’ve been more of a supporter than detractor of Jones in the past, we have to remember that this is a team game made up of individuals. The knock on Jones, is that he’s “not good.” Well no kidding! He’s a 3rd year quarterback, who has barely taken any snaps in the NFL. Also consider Jones is essentially the Steelers fourth option, as the team signed Michael Vick to replace the 2nd man on the depth chart, Bruce Gradkowski (who was injured during the preseason.)

That’s not to say Jones can’t get the job done. We’ve seen both the good and the bad of Landry Jones over the course of this season. Many fans in attendance at Heinz Field pulled a “Cincinnati” and booed when number 3 entered the field in relief of Vick, against the Arizona Cardinals. Jones lead the Steelers to a victory against Arizona, one of the league’s best teams this season.

Granted, Jones had help in the form of Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and others, but isn’t that how a team game works? Jones would still have a similar cast against Denver this Sunday, and those players would once again be called up to rise to the occasion (sans Brown, who was ruled out Friday morning.)

Yes, Jones also had some stinkers this season as well, throwing interceptions against Kansas City, Seattle, and Cincinnati, with 2 of those games having Jones called upon to rescue the team in the fourth quarter. However, Jones has rescued the team in the fourth quarter, as evidenced when leading a field goal drive against the Oakland Raiders. (Jones also went 3-for-4 against the Browns the following week, before getting injured himself.)

In contrast, Ben Roethlisberger has had an up-and-down season of his own. Notably, Ben is a different player when returning from injury: in his first game against the Bengals, Roethlisberger completed 62.22% of his passes, threw 3 interceptions and had a QB rating of 57.8. A similar low key performance came in a loss to the Ravens, where Ben had a 63.4 rating and threw 2 interceptions.

Roethlisberger closed out the last 4 games of the regular season throwing 6 touchdown passes to 7 interceptions. And while a two-time winning Super Bowl QB, and almost certain future hall of famer potentially gives the Steelers the best opportunity at winning, there’s still doubt. How bad have the injuries piled up for Ben this year?

With a sprained MCL, concussion and now sprained AC joint adding to the toll, will it take a toll on Ben? Can Ben start the game? Can Ben finish the game? How accurate can he throw the ball? Can he throw it downfield?

In his own words (and it pains me to say it) a healthy Jones might be a better option.

The keyword being “might.”

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