Backup quarterback Landry Jones hadn’t spoken to Ben Roethlisberger Monday before he met with reporters. But like Tom Brady, the Artesia grad isn’t convinced Roethlisberger will miss the Patriots game after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus Monday morning.
“Philip Rivers did it, didn’t he?” Jones said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Rivers, the San Diego Chargers quarterback, had similar surgery on his knee before the AFC Championship game against the Patriots following the 2007 season. He had surgery on a Monday and played in the game six days later.
But that was a playoff game for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The Steelers, who are in first place in the AFC North with a 4-2 record, are playing a midseason game with a bye week to follow.
Still, Brady said on Boston sports radio the Patriots were preparing as if Roethlisberger was going to start.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Roethlisberger had surgery through a team statement but did not provide a timetable for his return. He did say the injury is not long term.
Others in the Steelers locker room Monday were convinced Jones would be getting the start.
“He’s grown,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “This will be the full test. This is a good team coming in, a good defense. He’s thrown into the fire.”
Jones made two starts last season. He started and played the entire game in a 23-13 loss in Kansas City. He started against Cleveland a few weeks later but was injured early and replaced by Roethlisberger, who threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-9 victory.
Jones also had a few relief appearances. He was terrific in relief of an injured and ineffective Michael Vick against Arizona, leading the Steelers to a 25-13 victory. He was much less effective in the AFC wild-card game, when he was 2 for 5 and threw an interception after Roethlisberger left the game with a shoulder injury.
“We have to get Landry confidence,” running back Le’Veon Bell said. “When he’s confident, he’s made some plays. And when he has some pep in his step, he can strike. Ben’s been a starter for a long time at a high level. We just have to get him to the point where he’s real confident and he feels like he can do no wrong and feels like he can strike.
“We don’t want him to be too tense and thinking about too much at once. We want him to be confident and go out there and make some plays. He came in during the Arizona game and was striking. That was a big pickup for him. We have to do things he’s comfortable with. And obviously I have to help make plays and keep pressure off his back by running the ball well.”
Jones said he had a complete grasp of the playbook last season and didn’t feel like the coaches curtailed it when he played.
“We didn’t change much of what we were doing as far as the game plans,” Jones said. “I expect it to be kind of the same this year. The more you play, the more experience you get, the more confidence you get.”
Foster has confidence Jones can handle the entire playbook and perform well with his strong supporting cast.
“My hope is they don’t restrict the guy,” Foster said.” This guy was a really good college player. He has the tools around him to get this job done. Landry, me knowing him, he’s going to be a guy who makes sure his success is on the front page.”