The next time the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field, the final score will actually count for something. Second-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs is hoping that he will be on the sidelines for that one, but if not, he can leave town knowing that he left everything he had out on the field.
The 2017 fourth-round pick was stuck between a rock and a hard place, one minute looked at as the developmental future and the next being old news, not experienced enough to take over the backup role but also no longer the ‘upside’ guy following the drafting of Mason Rudolph.
Dobbs knew the odds were stacked against him, but he remained poised throughout, and as Head Coach Mike Tomlin said, put an exclamation point at the end of his preseason run, playing his best game of his career tonight against the Carolina Panthers and making the conversation more interesting.
The Steelers gave him the opportunity to start the game and he led the offense to touchdown drives on both. He finished the night with eight completions on 12 passes for 151 yards and one passing touchdown, plus 18 rushing yards and a touchdown on three runs.
Dobbs should have had a second touchdown pass that was dropped by first-year wide receiver Tevin Jones. He scrambled for five yards on the following third-and-eight play before settling for a field goal, leading the offense to 17 points on his four drives.
Most impressive was his feel for the rush and—more importantly—the ability to get out of it. While he did take one (hard) sack that was negated by a penalty, he also avoided a few others, especially on the opening drive, when multiple designed rollouts quickly thrust sometimes unblocked pressure into his face.
The Tennessee product was able to utilize his instincts and above average athleticism, however, to escape pressure and sometimes turned those instances into positive plays, even when the mistake was his. On the third play of the opening drive, he botched a clean snap, but showed poise in recovering it cleanly in stride and was able to scramble for nine yards and a first down.
It is important to note that the players the Steelers were facing tonight, even at the start of the game, consisted largely of second- and third-string players, some of whom may not even make the Carolina Panthers’ roster. And because they are a team Pittsburgh will be playing in the regular season, you can be sure that they played as vanilla a defensive system as possible.
Regardless of that qualifier, however, it is easy to observe that Dobbs has never looked better in his young career than he did tonight. He had perhaps one or two bad throws of his 12 attempts and was accurate on 75 percent of them, as mentioned one incompletion being dropped.
The conversation now becomes what the Steelers do. Do they keep four quarterbacks? Do they go with the veteran backup in Landry Jones? Do they take the upside of Dobbs to develop as a long-term number three? Do they let another team decide for them, whoever makes the best trade offer for one of the two?