As expected, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday that second-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who was selected by the team in the fourth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Tennessee, would start the team’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
“Josh Dobbs will start this game at quarterback,” Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference. “It’s been a good process for the quarterbacks. We’ve had four in camp, I think starting Josh will make it so that all four guys had an opportunity to start. All four have represented themselves well.”
In addition to Dobbs starting and playing Thursday night against the Panthers, Tomlin also indicated that rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was selected in the third-round of this year’s draft, is expected to get playing time in that contest and that he’s still undecided if backup quarterback Landry Jones will also play.
“I’m excited about Josh playing in this game, Mason [Rudolph] playing this game,” Tomlin said. “We’ll see if Landry [Jones] plays in this game.”
After talking about how the quarterback rotation would go Thursday night, Tomlin was immediately asked if he could wind up keeping all four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster this year.
“You’re certainly capable of it,” Tomlin said. “If you look at what happens in the National Football League, it’s been done. But you know, in today’s NFL two are probably kept more times than four, so it’s probably less frequent than two at this juncture.”
The Steelers have a long history of keeping only three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster to start a season. In fact, the last time that number has been different was in 2004 and 2005 when Tommy Maddox and Ben Roethlisberger were the only two quarterbacks on the team’s initial 53-man roster.
You have to go all the way back to 1999 and 1995 to find the last times the Steelers opened a regular season with four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. 1995 was the year they drafted Kordell Stewart and he opened his rookie season behind fellow Steelers quarterbacks Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, and Jim Miller. The team surprisingly kept all four players on their 53-man roster that entire season but it is worth noting that Stewart was used quite a bit as a wide receiver during his rookie season as well. In 1999, the Steelers opened the regular season with Stewart, Tomczak, Pete Gonzalez, and Anthony Wright on their 53-man roster.
The New York Jets are currently the last NFL team to open a regular season with four quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster. That happened in 2016 when they opened the regular season with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg all on their 53-man roster.