There was no posturing, no real attempt at deception. And Coach Mike Tomlin didn't even wait for a question to be asked before addressing the issue that was the primary one on the minds of everyone at his weekly news conference.
Check out the highlight photos from the Steelers vs Cardinals game. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 25-13 on October 18th 2015.
"Largely as we build a plan to go into Arrowhead and to perform, I just think it's appropriate that we build that planning around and behind Landry Jones," said Tomlin. "He's the healthiest of the group. He's healthy, and he provided a winning performance in the waning moments of that game last Sunday."
And so it will be that in their seventh regular season game of 2015 – against the Chiefs in Kansas City – the Steelers will be starting their third different quarterback.
As Tomlin said, Jones is the healthiest quarterback on the roster, with Ben Roethlisberger entering his third full week after spraining an MCL against the Rams in St. Louis and with Mike Vick injuring a hamstring in the second half of last Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals. Roethlisberger has said he is going to make every effort to practice this week, which would be a step forward from last week when all he did was some light throwing.
"We're going to focus on getting Landry ready," said Tomlin. "That's what we do know. Some of the other things are speculative, and we can't lose a whole lot of preparation time with speculation. When things reveal themselves to us in terms of the overall availability of Ben and/or Mike, then we'll make necessary adjustments to our plan accordingly. As we sit here today, we're just simply focused on Landry's readiness and getting him the required reps to perform in an above-the-line manner."
Backing up Jones on Sunday in Kansas City is completely unknown at this point. Roethlisberger is still rehabilitating that MCL injury, and Vick's hamstring was injured two days ago. Tyler Murphy, who split time at quarterback and wide receiver during training camp and the preseason, is on the practice squad.
"Who the backup quarterback is going to be, I do not know," said Tomlin. "Health is going to be a big element of that. Maybe it's neither (Roethlisberger nor Vick). If neither guy perks up and is above the line from a health standpoint, then we're going to do what's appropriate. We're going to follow the expert medical advice of our medical crew and make necessary adjustments accordingly. I'm less concerned about who's backing up and more concerned about getting Landry ready and getting him the required snaps so he can take a step forward in the quality of his play."
Based purely on statistics, Jones improving upon last Sunday seems impossible. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 168 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 149.3, all in what was the first regular season action of his two-plus seasons in the NFL.
"I appreciate the quality of his play last week – it got us out of the stadium – but it's reasonable for us to expect him to be better prepared with physical, in-helmet repetitions in preparation for this one," said Tomlin. "So we'll start with that in mind."
After being the team's second pick in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, Jones has been on the 53-man roster throughout, but he was inactive for all of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Jones' first regular season game in uniform came on Oct. 1 vs. the Ravens, the first of the three games Roethlisberger has missed with his MCL injury.
Jones' first regular season snap came in the second quarter when Vick was taken off the field following a run in which a clump of dirt got under his facemask and into his eyes. On that play Jones handed off to Le'Veon Bell, and then Chris Boswell came on to make a 47-yard field goal on the following play.
It was in the third quarter, after Vick injured his hamstring, that Jones took over for good. That was following Mike Mitchell's recovery of a Cardinals fumble that gave the Steelers the ball at the Arizona 32-yard line with 10:21 remaining.
"I wasn't shocked by his performance," said Tomlin. "He has logged as many preseason snaps as anybody in the history of preseason football and took good advantage of those repetitions, like we talked about back in the preseason. But I acknowledge that's just preseason, and preseason is not an indication of what regular season football is about. We were not shocked by his performance, but we were pleased by it, because doing it in a regular season game is a little different than doing it in a preseason game.
"He made some nice plays. He's a professional quarterback. We're not going to throw a pep rally or a party because of it. He did what was expected. He needs to continue to work and prepare this week and deliver some plays."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Will Allen is still working through his ankle injury. We'll see what participation for him looks like as we push through the week. Stephon Tuitt, who sprained his knee in the game, we'll take a look at him as we proceed through the week as well. I saw him walking pretty good (Monday), and we'll see what (Wednesday) holds in terms of his ability to bounce back or not bounce back. We'll do what's appropriate there.
"I assume Jarvis Jones will be well enough to participate this week, as will Ryan Shazier. As regards to Ben and Mike Vick, we're just simply going to play it by ear. I think it's prudent and appropriate right now that we proceed with the assumption that Landry is our quarterback this week. He is the one who's healthy. The other guys have elements of questions regarding their health, so we'll go day-by-day and look at their availability and effectiveness, and we'll do what's right with those guys."