It won’t be long now before the Pittsburgh Steelers begin rolling into Latrobe, PA to make Saint Vincent College their home away from home for several weeks as the summer winds down. That is when we know that training camp has begun, and with it the first breaths of the 2018 NFL season.
Everything that we have experienced up until now, from the re-signings, releases, and restructures to the draft and all the way through OTAs and minicamp, has been but a preview, the setup, for what is to come next.
And so we too continue to preview what comes next in a series in which we will highlight several of the battles for roster spots and roles that we expect to see during our time observing in training camp and throughout the preseason.
Up for Grabs: Backup Job
In the Mix: Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs
I’m not sure if the Steelers have ever had four quarterbacks they’ve drafted on the roster at the same time before this year. In the past, they have frequently relied upon veteran former starters from other teams as their backups, and the number four quarterbacks have almost always been former undrafted free agent hopefuls who have very little to no NFL experience.
That’s not the case this year, as at the moment they have three quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom were drafted with the intention of at same point serving as his backup. First was Landry Jones in 2013, then Joshua Dobbs last year. Now it’s Mason Rudolph, the first one in the group that they are legitimately considering as a seriously possibility as Roethlisberger’s eventual successor, rather than clipboard holder.
But just because they may feel that way about him in a long-term view doesn’t mean he is even going to get to hold that clipboard this season, or to dress during games. In order to do so, he will have to win a three-way competition for the backup job that he is not necessarily favored to win.
Jones has been the Steeler’s backup quarterback for two and a half seasons now and has shown pretty steady improvement during that time. He exhibits clear comfort in his knowledge and ability to execute the offense. He is also the only backup on the roster with any kind of tangible NFL experience.
If Rudolph proves to be the more talented quarterback and demonstrates an early understanding of the offense, and comfort running it, then the coaching staff could be motivated to slip him into the backup role sooner rather than later in order to hasten his development.
While there is an inclination to do so, Dobbs cannot be left out of this conversation, either. Were if not for Rudolph’s presence, the Steelers would be hopeful right now of Dobbs overtaking Jones for the backup role. That was why they drafted him a year ago. The intention is for Rudolph to ultimately surpass him, but the rookie may not yet be ready.