We have all seen it by now. Joshua Dobbs played his first meaningful snap for the Pittsburgh Steelers, checking in after a Ben Roethlisberger injury on second and 20 from the team’s own five-yard line. He promptly threw a 22-yard pass off of play action to JuJu Smith-Schuster to keep the key drive afloat, before exiting stage right.
There seems to be some confusion after the game as to whether or not it was his call to actually put the play in the air under those circumstances, but either way, the team trusted him to do so. Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about that after the game.
“Josh is uniquely mature as an individual, not as a football player”, he said of the second-year player. “He’s steady. That personality’s helpful to him. We had a great deal of confidence in him. That guy was challenged in a big way to earn the job that he has, the role that he has for us, and he has never blinked at any point in the process, even when it was seemingly stacked against him. Because of that, we have a great deal of confidence in him and it was displayed, and he confirmed it with his play”.
Roethlisberger, who looked to suffer a shoulder injury but after the game appears only to have had the wind knocked out of him, even said that he might have stayed out. “I almost left Josh in after that play, but, felt I had enough wind and could just come in and we had been waiting for that call all day. We saw them doing something, so I finally had an opportunity to call it”, he said.
Dobbs had taken two snaps earlier this year, but both were in victory formation. Roethlisberger has fortunately been healthy enough until this game to be able to take every meaningful snap, but he said that everybody on the team believes in their new backup.
“Josh prepares every day, every week like he’s the starter, and that’s what you ask from a backup”, he said of Dobbs. He’s “a guy that can go in there at any time, in a moment’s notice and make a play and not just come in and hand the ball off. We expect him to make that big play and that was a huge play he made”.
The 2017 fourth-round pick was inactive for every game of his rookie season until the season finale in which Roethlisberger rested, that game dressing to back up Landry Jones, who was released in favor of Dobbs and third-round rookie Mason Rudolph.
Dobbs looked to be the odd man out in the quarterback competition right after Rudolph was drafted, and the decision was probably close right down to the wire, but he was poised throughout and closed the preseason with a great game.
“You have to take advantage of your opportunities”, he reflected after the game. “You don’t know when they’ll come”. Aditi Kinkhabwala asked him if the safer thing would have been to run the ball. “What’s fun about that?“, he replied with a grin.
Hopefully, this is the only pass that Dobbs throws for the Steelers until another meaningless regular season finale in Week 17 this year, with Roethlisberger on the sidelines and Rudolph dressing. But what a pass it was. And his team knew he was capable of it.