They want to see how the former Oklahoma standout has developed and matured as he enters his third NFL season. The results have been mixed through two extended preseason games.
“I thought I’ve had a decent camp,” Jones said. “There’s some good, some bad. I just need to make more plays and go out there and win a game.”
Starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took it easy in the early portions of training camp, while a shoulder injury landed veteran backup Bruce Gradkowski on the physically unable to perform list, giving Jones additional snaps.
The 26-year-old has performed the bulk of the work, but it’s been largely inconsistent, mixing good and bad on the practice field with a pair of up-and-down game day showings as the Steelers are winless through two preseason games.
“You try not to repeat the mistakes,” Jones said. “You see the mistakes you made, learn from them and move on.”
Jones has handled nearly every snap in preseason games, save for a few Tyler Murphy snaps against Minnesota and an efficient Roethlisberger-led first-team score during the opening series Friday against Jacksonville.
Other than that, it’s been all Jones.
“It’s just invaluable to get that experience,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Jones, who hasn’t played a down in the regular season, started his third preseason game against Minnesota, taking a heavy dose of the action as indicated by coach Mike Tomlin earlier in the week. He played exclusively in the following game against Jacksonville, the only Steelers quarterback other than Roethlisberger to take a snap.
“He did some nice things with the extra snaps we gave him,” Tomlin said. “That’s all you’re looking for when you take the time to give a guy an extra snap or two. You’d like to see him take advantage of it with execution, and I thought he did that.”
Jones attempted 46 passes and threw a touchdown against Jacksonville. He’s connected on 39 of 78 tries through two preseason games, while throwing for 328 yards, with an interception and averaging just 4.2 yards per attempt.
“There’s some decisions I wish I could’ve taken back,” Jones said. “But other than that, it’s kind of the same-old, just keep moving forward and keep progressing.”
But it has been an at-times frustratingly inconsistent progression for Jones, who has the ability to fit smooth spirals into tight windows on one play and bounce a pass at the feet of his receivers on the next.
Jones led the offense to three second-half scores on four possessions against Jacksonville, helping the Steelers rally from a 17-8 deficit. But the Jaguars responded on the ensuing possession, taking a 23-21 lead with 2:54 to play.
From there, it was up to Jones, who finished 3 of 14 on third-down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth. But two potential game-winning drives ended on downs.
“There were plays we left on the field, for sure, but we have to do more to win the game,” Jones said. “We competed, but at the end of the game, we have to find a way to make some plays.”
Gradkowski recently returned to practice from his shoulder injury, which will take snaps from Jones. But the Steelers still appear to be intrigued by their 2013 fourth-round pick, who broke school and Big 12 conference records at Oklahoma.
They want to see him translate that success to the NFL.
“I just need to keep getting better,” Jones said. “I’ve been doing some good things in practice, and did some decent things in the game. I need to keep plugging away, trying to get better every day.”
NOTES: Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt missed Monday’s practice and is considered day to day. Also out were LB Lawrence Timmons (toe), LB Vince Williams (hamstring), RB Josh Harris (foot), S Ross Ventrone (leg) and LB Jordan Zumwalt (groin). … The Steelers are off Tuesday and have three practices remaining at St. Vincent College before breaking camp and returning to Pittsburgh.