For the rest of the preseason, we’ll give a recap, position-by-position, player-by-player of what I saw during the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and preseason games. Let’s start with QBs.
Ben Roethlisberger: Ho-hum, another great camp from #7. It’s cliche, I know, but Roethlisberger seriously looked like he was in great shape and really taken care of his body as he nears the big 4-0. His numbers were excellent across the board and intangibly, he was a leader on the practice field. Going over routes with receivers, talking with his fellow quarterbacks, and rising up after the passing of Darryl Drake. He did, and again, this is pretty trite and cliche, seemed to have a lot of fun this time around. Maybe that’s something to do with not having to worry about Antonio Brown. Maybe it’s a guy realizing he only has two or three training camps left. Either way, good August for him.
Camp Grade: A
Devlin Hodges: Hello, Mr. Hodges. This battle for the #3 spot remains ongoing, it won’t be decided until after the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. We knew Hodges had some talent but he’s exceeded every expectation, perhaps over his own, and is making a serious push to make the team as the #3 quarterback, edging out Dobbs. I love his mentality. He’ll chuck it deep time and time again, a big arm with timing and accuracy.
But there’s an uncommon efficiency to his game too. His 71.8% completion rate was the highest I’ve seen in the six years I’ve tracked camp stats and he didn’t make many reckless decisions. His exchanges with centers and running backs have been clean and he’s shown enough of an understanding of the offense to avoid typical rookie mistakes (re-huddling, clear miscommunication, delay of games, sans one early against Tampa). He’s met every challenge the team has thrown at him and there’s nothing more he could be doing right now to state his case. Now it’s just about being consistent and strain across the finish line. What a performance.
Camp Grade: A
Mason Rudolph: Now we get into the players who had a lot on the line. Rudolph got off to a good – not great – start, faded a bit towards the end of the first grind of camp (nine practices in ten days) but hit his stride at the end and began to show separation for the #2 spot during the Kansas City Chiefs game. He doesn’t have the biggest arm but his accuracy and placement on his deep ball is impressive and there’s zip and aggression on intermediate throws. I did want to see him push the ball downfield more, his sub 8 yards per completion was by far the worst of the four but he began airing it out later in camp.
He’s showing more confidence and poise in the pocket which is actually making him more mobile and able to extend the play. No longer is he the sitting duck who got sacked seven times last preseason. Overall, I’ve seen him take a step forward. Maybe not a leap but a step and that’s good for his – and the front office’s – confidence.
Camp Grade: B
Josh Dobbs: Dobbs got off to the rockiest start possible, completion 40% of his passes over the first four practices. He found his groove and got things going the rest of the way but his accuracy still frustrated, both in practice and in-game. The number of “gimmie” throws he missed this summer is maddening and a recurring problem for him. Which especially sucks because he has every other tool in his belt. The arm, the mobility, the decision-making, the toughness, the intangibles and leadership. He’s made some great plays at Latrobe and Heinz Field.
But if you don’t have accuracy, you don’t have much of a chance. On a yearly basis, he finishes at the bottom in completion percentage in camp. This year was his worst, 53%.
Camp Grade: C