A thought just occurred to me: could Jake McGee’s injury actually be of benefit to quarterback Joshua Dobbs—or perhaps more accurately, to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ability or willingness to keep four quarterbacks, either on the 53-man roster or the practice squad?
I honestly haven’t done the legwork, but I know it’s been a while since the Steelers have ever had four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster at the same time. I don’t believe it’s ever happened under Mike Tomlin, though they were juggling four players in 2010, with injuries working themselves out in that case. And injuries could still play a role here.
But think about it. McGee was the only tight end on the roster who was really going to be competitive for a roster spot. He could have unseated Xavier Grimble as the number three, or the team could have even kept four tight ends, which they have done often in recent years (most recently in 2016).
That obviously made him a candidate for the practice squad, where he already spent last season. That’s no longer an option. What are the options at tight end for the practice squad now? Is there anything to excite anybody? How about Pharaoh McKever? Maybe? What about Ryan Malleck, whom they have already released before?
Now comes the twist. There is also Christian Scotland-Williamson, who is an international player learning the game of football from a rugby background. He is learning the tight end position, though understandably he is incredible raw. But he does have a roster exemption for the practice squad, meaning he can be the 11th player.
Without the compulsion to keep McGee as a fourth tight end, whether on the 53-man roster or on the practice squad, the Steelers may decide that they don’t have a really convincing option for a practice squad tight end on the roster, and instead just use Scotland-Williamson there as that fourth body. On the 53, Roosevelt Nix is also capable of executing tight end duties, and they like to use linemen as extra blockers as well.
Long story short, that would free up an additional spot on the practice squad that would not ordinarily be there, and they could use that to keep Dobbs on the practice squad.
It goes without saying that that is a huge assumption on multiple fronts. It assumes, first and foremost, that the second-year quarterback would even clear waivers. The vast majority of players do clear waivers, of course, but quarterbacks are often the most frequently plucked.
It also assumes that Dobbs would want to stay with the team on the practice squad. He wouldn’t be the first player who chooses to try his luck as a street free agent. Demarcus Ayers did that last year when the Steelers did not retain him on the 53-man roster.
Oh, and it also assumes that Dobbs doesn’t make the roster himself. He is battling sixth-year veteran Landry Jones for a roster spot, assuming the unlikely event of them carrying four does not occur. If Mason Rudolph wins the backup position, Jones could become expendable. There is even the possibility that Dobbs himself wins that job.