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Labriola On

Labriola on Landry, Romo, 2011 vs. NE

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • The perfect scenario would be that the guy never takes a meaningful snap, that he only plays in those games at the end of the regular season after your playoff seeding has been clinched. That's the idea, but in the NFL the position in question deserves an emphasis. Backup quarterback is more than a line to be filled out on a depth chart. It's a role, and as the 2016 season ended, the Steelers had a guy they liked for that role.
  • But Landry Jones can become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. on March 9.
  • Back in 2013, the Steelers invested a fourth-round pick on Jones with the idea to groom him into a competent NFL backup quarterback, because they needed one of those behind Ben Roethlisberger. And they needed a young one they could develop, because the tactic of signing guys on the back ends of their careers became unreliable with the increased risk for injury.
  • Four years into it, Jones gradually ascended into a player who can complete in the 60-percent range, and his 82.8 career passer rating is respectable. That his passer rating was 86.3 in 2016 is a sign of continued improvement, which indicates the draft pick spent on him was a good investment.
  • Re-signing him wouldn't be the most popular move the Steelers make this offseason, but it would be an important one.
  • One of the things that became apparent over the course of the 2016 season was the Steelers' vision for how Ryan Shazier was going to fit into their defense. Some of the statistical evidence: With two interceptions in these playoffs, Shazier joined Jack Ham and Levon Kirkland as the only linebackers in franchise history with multiple interceptions in the same season's playoffs. Ham (1974) and Kirkland (1995) also had two apiece.
  • Apparently, Bill Belichick doesn't believe in it either. The "it" here is the idea that the right thing to do – the only smart coaching move possible – is to pull the starting quarterback in the fourth quarter of a game that fans have decided is over. During the Wild Card Round, Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, and Mike McCarthy all left their franchise quarterbacks on the field to the end of games their teams won by 18, 20, and 25 points, respectively.
  • Tom Brady took every snap during the AFC Championship Game the Patriots won by 19, and in fact Belichick had Brady attempting to pass with a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter. Remember that play? A third-and-3 and the idea was for the quarterback to get something out of his hand quickly, but the quarterback pulled the ball down, moved around in the pocket trying to make something happen, and he ended up taking a hit while throwing a pass that ended up incomplete anyway? Risking injury!
  • Remember that? Ah, but Ben Roethlisberger ended up taking an unnecessary hit from Cameron Wake in Dolphins-Steelers, you say. Well then, what would you call what Stephon Tuitt did to Brady on that pass attempt up by 24 in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game?
  • What I would call all of those situations/decisions is playing to win.
  • Something I really don't understand is the position taken by a faction of the media that the Dallas Cowboys have to get rid of Tony Romo for salary cap purposes this offseason. Typically the numbers get thrown out, and admittedly those numbers are scary. Romo's charge to the Cowboys' cap goes up $4 million in 2017 to a total of $24 million, which is way, way, way too much even in the bigger-is-better world where the Cowboys reside.
  • But what makes Romo's $24 million doable is that Dak Prescott will cost the Cowboys only $635,000 on their 2017 salary cap. Had Romo stayed healthy this season and Dallas made the playoffs – not an unreasonable assumption given talent on that roster – nobody would be looking at a $24.635 million total cap charge for a proven starter and a backup as being too much. What difference does it make who makes what if the total for the position is in the budget?
  • Why send Romo to another team? It's not smart competitively, and you need a backup for Prescott anyway. Romo would be making a big buck, so consider that a salve for any possible hurt feelings. The Cowboys lost a season in 2015 because they didn't have a viable backup quarterback when the starter got hurt. They solved that issue by drafting Prescott, and now they have two quarterbacks on their roster who are proven winners in the NFL. If I was in charge, I'm sticking with that.
  • The Steelers young receivers came up small against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Reminded me of Super Bowl XLV when a pair of rookie receivers were shut out in the second half of a game in which they also did very little in the first half. Emmanuel Sanders caught two passes for 17 yards and Antonio Brown finished with one catch for 1 yard, and this on a day when Ben Roethlisberger would attempt 40.
  • Been hearing a lot about the 2011 regular season matchup between the Patriots and the Steelers, and how it was the defense's press-man coverage and pass rush that befuddled and throttled Tom Brady in a game the Steelers won, 25-17.
  • Looked it up. That's not true.
  • In that game, Brady completed 68.6 percent, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 101.8. He also was 2-for-2 in the red zone. Neither befuddled nor throttled.
  • The Steelers won that game on offense. By running 78 plays and rolling up 29 first downs through converting 63 percent on third downs. The Steelers held the ball for 39 minutes, 22 seconds, and while doing so they gained 427 yards of offense. In that game, the Steelers had five separate offensive possessions in which they ran 10-plus plays: 11 plays for 68 yards, 16 plays for 72 yards, 10 plays for 76 yards, 14 plays for 80 yards, 11 plays for 56 yards. Granted, being 2-for-5 in the red zone is what kept the game from being a blowout, but clearly the control the Steelers established in that game was by their offense.
  • So, yes to all of you who have been so dedicated in sending submissions to Asked and Answered to point out that the way for the Steelers to defeat the Patriots is to copy the script from the game in 2011. I completely agree. That is the only way. Keep the ball away from Brady.
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