Steelers defend Jones after throwing 4 interceptions in loss

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't put all the blame on quarterback Landry Jones for Thursday's preseason loss

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t put all the blame on quarterback Landry Jones for Thursday’s preseason loss against Philadelphia.

Jones threw four first-half interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. But the Steelers were quick to defend their backup quarterback following the 17-0 loss.

“Some of it was good plays by them and some of it was negligence by us, whether it’s route-running or throwing,” Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin said. “I understand that it falls under his stat line, but those are unit plays.”

Second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates took the blame for Jones’ first interception. It happened on the opening play of the Steelers’ second drive when Nolan Carroll stepped in front of a pass intended for Coates and returned the interception 38 yards for a score.

“I should’ve come off that ball harder,” Coates said. “It was all my fault. Not on the quarterback at all.”

The second interception came at the end of a lengthy drive that saw Jones march the Steelers to the Philadelphia 8-yard line. Jones moved the Steelers 71 yards in 14 plays, picking up two third downs along the way before a Cobi Hamilton fade was broken up by Leodis McKelvin and intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins.

“It was a real good throw,” Hamilton said. “He couldn’t put it any better. I just have to go up and make the play.”

It was a similar story on the third interception. Jones moved the Steelers 60 yards on 10 plays, converting two more third downs, but another pass intended for Coates was picked off in the end zone by Aaron Grymes.

“I didn’t jump or do anything,” Coates said. “When the quarterback gives you a chance to go up and get the ball, you have to make the play.”

Jones absorbed a heavy hit and released a wobbly throw on the fourth interception, an easy one for Jaylen Watkins, who camped under the throw. Jones finished the game 12 of 20 for 111 yards with his four turnovers.

“You can’t ever find comfort in those things,” Jones said. “It was probably as bad as it looked out there. You want to go out there and put your best foot forward and play the way you know you’re capable of playing.”

Jones, the Steelers’ 2013 fourth-round pick, took the bulk of the snaps last season when the Steelers played five preseason games. It was largely inconsistent at times, as the former Oklahoma standout mixed good and bad on the practice field with several up-and-down gameday showings.

But the extended preseason prepared Jones for his first meaningful regular-season action last season, as he filled in when starter Ben Roethlisberger missed time with a sprained MCL and bruised tibia. Jones rallied the Steelers to victories against Arizona and Oakland, but struggled during a loss at Kansas City.

That experience helped Jones enter his fourth season with additional confidence in his abilities and more time under center.

Tomlin has preserved Roethlisberger during training camp practices and sat his veteran quarterback for the first two preseason games, allowing more opportunities for Jones.

Jones seemingly took a step back Thursday, throwing four interceptions in a losing effort. Regardless, the 27-year-old quarterback plans to take the most recent outing against the Eagles as a learning experience and grow from it.

“Things like that are going to happen,” Jones said. “You are going to play bad. So, you learn from it and you move on.”

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