The Pittsburgh Steelers could face another backup-turned-starter when they host the New England Patriots to kickoff Week 14. Per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, the Patriots plan to start Bailey Zappe over Mac Jones for this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Patriots opened up their QB competition this week. During Wednesday’s practice, Zappe and rookie Malik Cunningham received the team’s practice reps while Jones watched from the side, indicating a change was likely occurring. Cunningham could serve as the backup with Jones not dressing as the team’s emergency third quarterback.
Head coach Bill Belichick is in the middle of his worst season as Patriots’ head coach. Sitting at 2-9 and losers of four straight, New England has one of the league’s worst offenses. During this four-game skid, they haven’t scored more than 17 points and been held under ten the last two weeks, losing to Tommy Devito and the New York Giants 10-7 over the weekend.
Jones has regressed significantly in his third NFL season. He’s thrown more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (ten), struggling behind a mangled offensive line and lack of receivers to throw to. RB Rhamondre Stevenson is tied for the team lead with 37 receptions while Jones’ top receivers are Kendrick Bourne and Demario Douglas.
Now, the Pats seemed poised to make a change. Although Zappe’s status isn’t guaranteed beyond this weekend, given the fact New England will be working on a short week, having to travel to Pittsburgh for a Thursday game, it’s less likely they would make another quarterback swap after this weekend, unless Zappe absolutely tanks against the Chargers.
Zappe, the team’s fourth round pick in 2022 after putting up big numbers at Western Kentucky, has started two career games. Both came last season, and he finished the season with five touchdowns, three picks, and an impressive 70.7 percent completion rate. In limited action this year, he’s struggled, completing less than half of his 39 attempts while throwing zero touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Trailing 10-6, he replaced Jones on the final drive of the team’s Week 11 game against the Indianapolis Colts but was picked off. And he replaced Jones at halftime of Sunday’s loss to the Giants. While lacking physical tools, Zappe’s known for his accuracy and football IQ..
Over the last two weeks, the Steelers have faced backup quarterbacks in Cleveland’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Cincinnati’s’ Jake Browning. Earlier this year, they also faced Tennessee rookie QB Will Levis, replacing the injured Ryan Tannehill.