Who will be the Pittsburgh Steelers No. 2 quarterback in 2019? Last year that designation went to Joshua Dobbs all season as the team’s 2017 fourth-round draft pick out of Tennessee played well enough during training camp and the preseason to beat out former longtime backup Landry Jones and then-rookie Mason Rudolph, the team’s first of two third-round draft picks over a year ago. Rudolph, however, indicated after Tuesday’s OTA practice that he and Dobbs will be competing during the remainder of the offseason for the right to backup starter Ben Roethlisberger this year.
“I don’t see myself being No. 1 this year, so that would be the next-best opportunity,” Rudolph said Tuesday about battling this summer to be Roethlisberger’s backup in 2019, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’m taking every single day and just competing against myself and the guys around us. Everyone makes everyone better.”
Rudolph announcing that he and Dobbs will be battling the remainder of the offseason to be Roethlisbetgfers backup isn’t overly surprising, however. The more surprising thing will be Rudolph not ultimately beating out Dobbs to be the No. 2. After all, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has referenced the Steelers having a first-round grade on Rudolph ever since he was drafted.
Rudolph’s rookie season consisted of him being inactive for all 16 games after a preseason that included him completing 24 of his 44 total pass attempts for 315 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He also was sacked 7 times last year during the preseason and fumbled 3 times. After starting the season as the team’s No.3 quarterback behind Roethlisberger and Dobbs, Rudolph went on to mostly run the Steelers scout teams during regular season practices.
While Dobbs easily had the better preseason showing last year, his limited play last year during the regular season left a lot to be desired outside of one play. After competing a 3rd and 22 pass for a first down against the Baltimore Ravens after subbing in for one play for a temporarily injured Roethlisberger, Dobbs really struggled the next time he was asked to relive the Steelers starting quarterback during meaningful playing time.
When Roethlisberger was injured late in the first half of the Steelers Week 14 road game against the Oakland Raiders, Dobbs relieved him for several series on his way to registering just 4 completions for 24 yards on 9 total pass attempts with an interception. In those four possessions that Dobbs quarterbacked prior to Roethlisberger ultimately returning to the game in the fourth quarter, the Steelers offense registered all of 64 net yards and no points scored. The Steelers went on to lose that game to the Raiders 24-21.
Should Rudolph be unable to unseat Dobbs for the backup job this summer, his selection in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft will be viewed by many as being totally worthless and especially with that pick coming just one year after Dobbs was selected in the fourth-round.
For what it’s worth, and as you would likely expect, Rudolph made sure to dedicate a lot of time this offseason to the Steelers playbook in an effort to make sure he gives himself the best shot at overtaking Dobbs on the quarterback depth chart this summer.
“It allowed me about four months of deep dives and conversations with the coaching staff, hitting them up and studying. I enjoy that stuff,” Rudolph said Tuesday, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I can kind of get into a little bit of a nerd mentality in the offseason. It’s fun studying.”
The Steelers first preseason game of 2019 will take place 10 weeks from Thursday and it will be interesting to see if it’s Dobbs or Rudolph that ultimately starts that contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Roethlisberger will likely sit that contest out.