QB Jones accepts backup job

LATROBE, Pa. – Landry Jones can do the math.

He knows his immediate – and barring disaster, long-term – future with the Pittsburgh Steelers will consist of him watching from the sideline on Sundays as Ben Roethlisberger goes to work.

Jones gets it. He totally does. Roethlisberger has the experience and the talent to go with his pair of Super Bowl rings and at age 32 is still a half-decade away from even pondering retirement.

If Jones is going to become a starter in the NFL one day, he’s aware it will almost certainly have to be somewhere else.

And while the former Oklahoma star is doing what he can to push those thoughts out of his mind and focus on gaining further command of an offense he may never actually run, the realist in him knows what he’s up against.

“Sure I would love to play, but as far as right now and the situation I’m in, is it likely? No,” Jones said Wednesday.

“But am I just going to pigeon-hole myself? Am I just going to be a backup? Am I going to be a third-string guy? No. I want to start. I want to play in this league and I have aspirations for myself and where I want my career to go. But as far as right now, it’s tough not playing, it’s tough not getting exactly what you want.”

Don’t get him wrong, he’s not complaining.

The fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft insists he’s “blessed” to learn behind Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski.

It helps to have the stability of a four-year contract and no real pressure to do anything more than get adjusted to life in the NFL.

A week into his second training camp, the growth process appears to be speeding up. The passes that sailed over heads or bounced at the feet of his receivers as a rookie are now finding their target.

“Last year I was just going out there and things were flying around, I really didn’t know what was going on,” Jones said. “This year I’ve felt a lot more comfortable in the offense, knowing my reads and things along those lines.”

He’ll get a chance to show how far he’s come over the next four weeks. Though Jones declines to speculate on whether he has a chance to supplant Gradkowski for the second spot on the depth chart – calling it a question better suited for coach Mike Tomlin – he understands what’s at stake when he takes the field on Saturday night against the New York Giants.

“I just want to perform the way I know I’m capable of performing and wherever the chips fall, they fall,” he said. “Whatever the coaches decide they’re gonna do, they’re gonna do. I don’t have much control over that situation.”

What he does have control over, however, is what he does when the football is in his hands. The previous time he took snaps in a packed stadium, things didn’t go so well.

Jones completed just 30 of 66 passes (45 percent) during the 2013 preseason. He was tentative at times and rushed at others. While he’s certainly looking for better numbers, he’s also looking for a better presence in the pocket.

Notes: Rookie LB Ryan Shazier missed his second straight practice with what Tomlin described as a “boo boo.” …DL Steve McLendon sat out a fourth consecutive practice with a concussion… The Steelers signed wide receiver James Shaw, the team announced.