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: Roster Spot
In the Mix: Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs
This conversation is a little more nuanced than most, because whoever wins the roster spot might not necessarily have the same job. Whether Landry Jones wins a roster spot or Joshua Dobbs, either of them could either be the number three quarterback who does not dress, or be the backup on game days.
That will largely be determined by rookie third-round draft pick Mason Rudolph and how quickly he can develop over the course of the next month and a half or so. If he excels and actually earns the right to back up Ben Roethlisberger on Sundays, that could make Jones more expendable as the older, higher-salaried player between the two.
Should Rudolph not develop as quickly as hoped (though not necessarily anticipated), Dobbs will have a much more difficult time making the roster, because he will have to prove to the coaches that he is capable of being the Steelers’ backup in spite of the fact that he has literally never even taken a snap in a meaningful game before.
It will have been a very long time since the last time the team went into the season with their backup quarterback having no prior in-game experience by design. Not even Roethlisberger was intended to be the direct backup at the start of his rookie season. Jones’ first playing time came because the backup(s) ahead of him got injured.
As I’ve previously written, the last time the Steelers went into a season with backup quarterbacks who have never even thrown an NFL pass before was in 1980 when Chuck Noll was still the head coach and just finished the best run in NFL history of four Super Bowls in six seasons. Cliff Stoudt and rookie Mark Malone, a first-round pick, were those backups.
Let’s just say that the Steelers will probably have to really really believe in Rudolph’s ability to play right away in order for Dobbs to make the team; otherwise, it would be bucking nearly four decades of team history.