Jones confident as Patriots loom

AP Landry Jones will start at quarterback for the Steelers on Sunday against the Patriots.

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Landry Jones is a realist. Call it the byproduct of spending the last three-plus years fighting for a job and fending off repeated attempts by the Pittsburgh Steelers to find somebody better to back up Ben Roethlisberger.

So in a team meeting Wednesday, with the franchise quarterback resting at home while recovering from left knee surgery and a visit from the New England Patriots awaiting on Sunday, Jones felt it was time to send a message, albeit more than a little tongue in cheek.

“Don’t panic.”

No, really.

“Any time THE Landry Jones graces us with his verbal leadership, we appreciate that,” linebacker Arthur Moats said with a laugh.

“In all seriousness … we understand the ‘next man up motto’ doesn’t matter. Any position as you’ve seen this year, we’ve had those guys have success. It’s no different with Landry.”

Jones gets he’s not Roethlisberger. Then again, few are. That hardly means he expects offensive coordinator Todd Haley to delete half the playbook or the Steelers (4-2) to cower at the sight of Tom Brady.

From the day the Steelers took him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, Jones has believed he can be an NFL starting quarterback. That belief hasn’t wavered. Now in the final year of his rookie contract, Jones is well aware there’s possibly more at stake Sunday than one game in the standings. There’s a very real chance to prove to 31 other teams he can be a difference maker.

“Yeah, but that’s way on the backburner though,” Jones said Wednesday. “Right now, I’m on this team. I’m ready to go. I want to play and I want to play well. And I want to win the game. All of that stuff will take care of itself.”

Maybe, though it often doesn’t for second-string quarterbacks when tasked with trying to beat a Hall of Famer. The Patriots have rarely lost to backups on Brady’s watch. The list of newbies who have shaken Brady’s hand in triumph over the past 16 years is short.

Really short.

Roethlisberger did it in 2004, though by Week 7 the rookie had already supplanted Tommy Maddox as the starter. Kevin Kolb did it in Week 2 in 2012 as Arizona pulled off an unlikely upset in Foxboro.

Brock Osweiler did it while subbing for Peyton Manning last November, a performance that helped swing home-field advantage to the Broncos in the playoffs and Osweiler land a $72 million contract from Houston in the offseason.

Otherwise, backup quarterbacks have met the same fate as everyone else caught trying to outsmart Bill Belichick or keep up with Brady.

“They’re going to do what they do, but for each team there are little tweaks here and there,” Jones said. “I’m sure they’ll have something different for us.”

Jones, however, hopes the Steelers don’t do anything differently with him in the huddle instead of Roethlisberger.

The leading passer in Big 12 history during his record-setting career at Oklahoma was intermittently effective in 2015, leading a second-half rally at Arizona and a winning drive against Oakland with Roethlisberger unavailable.

Yet Jones also did little in a loss at Kansas City in the one game he started and finished. He looked overmatched when thrown into last January’s wild-card game in Cincinnati while Roethlisberger was getting his sprained right shoulder worked on, throwing what appeared to be a season-ending pick before the Bengals went into a full meltdown.