(Reuters) - Pittsburgh Steelers supporters could be forgiven for forgetting about Ben Roethlisberger for a moment on Sunday after third-string quarterback Landry Jones came on to lead the team to a 25-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
In his National Football League debut, Jones looked more like a seasoned veteran than a starry-eyed newcomer throwing a pair of touchdowns as the Steelers improved to 4-2 to stay in touch with unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals who top the AFC North with mark of 6-0.
With Roethlisberger sidelined for a third straight game due to a knee injury, back-up quarterback Mike Vick started, but proved ineffective before being replaced by Jones in the third quarter.
“It’s been a long road … but I’m just so thankful and blessed to finally get in there and play again,” the 2013 fourth round draft pick from Oklahoma told reporters.
“I played the way I’m capable of playing. I missed some throws, made some throws. There’s always room for improvement.
“I’m trying to prepare like the starters. In practice I don’t get a whole lot of reps.”
Jones, 26, took extra satisfaction from being allowed to look for touchdown passes, rather than just handing off the ball.
“It just instills a lot of confidence in me what the coaches think about me.
“I’m just so thankful they gave me a shot. They just didn’t hand the ball left and right off the bat. They let me get out there and throw and they trust me with the ball.”
Jones completed eight of 12 passes for 168 yards, his two touchdown passes going to wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who made his season debut after a substance abuse suspension and injury.
Bryant was quick to sing the praises of Jones.
“Landry (wants) to take advantage of his opportunities, just like everyone else. Once he got a chance he didn’t look back.
“I’m proud of how he came out, proud of how everybody responded to him, having his back.”
With Roethlisberger doubtful for next week, Jones may get another chance to strut his stuff.
“This team, it’s unbelievable,” he said of a franchise that has continued to win despite being decimated by injuries this season.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, just the resiliency of the guys. It’s just next man up. Whoever’s next, they play hard and play the way they’re capable of.
“Today we showed the world what type of team we are.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina. Editing by Steve Keating.