The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Rookie Devlin Hodges has been more impressive so far than Joshua Dobbs.
Explanation: The Steelers exited the preseason last year thinking that their quarterback depth chart through at least the 2020 season was already set in place with Joshua Dobbs and then-rookie Mason Rudolph serving as the backups to Ben Roethlisberger. Undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges is trying to complicate that equation, and has statistically been more successful than Dobbs has so far this preseason.
Let’s start by looking at the numbers. Dobbs has completed 11 out of 19 pass attempts, which is not good, for 180 yards, which is good. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass, but he threw a critical interception in the end zone in last night’s game at the end of the second quarter, during a two-minute drill.
Compare that to Hodges, who has completions on 10 of 18 throws. That completion percentage is actually slightly worse. He has thrown for 117 yards, so his yards per attempt is also lower. But he has also gotten the offense into the end zone twice with his arms. In Week One, he connected with Tevin Jones on a play on which he showed patience. His 24-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson last night showed anticipation.
Relative to the complements that he had to work with, it’s fair to argue that Hodges has gotten more out of what he had than has Dobbs, and thus deserves to get some more high-quality playing time in the final preseason game.
Dobbs may not have a touchdown pass yet, and this isn’t horseshoes, but he’s almost had two. The first was to James Washington in the back left corner of the end zone. The ball was high, but Washington couldn’t keep all of his left foot inbounds. Johnson would’ve had a 24-yard touchdown from Dobbs too if he wasn’t flagged for offensive pass interference, which was a questionable on-field call at best.
You also can’t ignore the asset that Dobbs’ mobility brings. Mike Tomlin praised his abilities in that area at the end of the first preseason game. He made another fantastic scramble play for a first down on third down, breaking out of two sacks before fighting through contact to get across the sticks. Nobody else on the roster could even come close to making that play.
And of the three quarterbacks who have played, it is Dobbs who is actually making the throws down the field and connecting. That’s a big part of this offense. He might miss some of the easy throws, but the chunk plays, the third downs, the scrambles, that’s a lot to work with.