Following last night’s preseason finale, it would be a surprise, barring some sort of unlikely trade, that third-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs is not on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster when they open up their regular season schedule against the New England Patriots. It would also be a surprise, however, if he dresses for that game over Mason Rudolph.
While Dobbs was the direct backup to Ben Roethlisberger last season, Rudolph, in his second year, was pretty clearly the better quarterback between the two throughout the offseason process, and that was, I think, reflected in how he was used during the preseason, playing ahead of Dobbs in the second and third games, typically the opportunities to see the most high-quality opponents.
But that says as much about the growth that Rudolph has made as it does about Dobbs, who has played somewhat better than his numbers would indicate. While he has certainly thrown his share of ducks (no relation to Devlin Hodges on the short passes, he has also made some big-time plays, and his pocket mobility has been excellent, whether that leads to a throw or a scramble.
The most important thing for a young player is to show growth year after year, and while Dobbs still has his flaws, he has shown that through his first three seasons. He told reporters after the game that he feels he has grown a lot since this time last year. “I definitely improved”, he said.
“The game’s slowed down a lot. Execution, both in practice and on the game field, being able to control protection, moving people left to right”, he said, were examples of his improvement in the mental side of the game. “Then just going out and executing the offense and keeping the offense in good situations. I’ve improved a ton. Of course, with more reps, that’s where that improvement comes from, so it’s been great to get those reps to try and show that improvement as well, and continue to mold myself as an NFL quarterback”.
On the preseason, Dobbs has officially completed 18 of 33 passes for a completion percentage of 54.5, though of course that includes some dropped passes. He has thrown for 280 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He rushed nine times for 70 yards, leading the team.
He could have had at least two touchdown passes, however, if things had gone differently ever so slightly. In the first preseason game, he threw a pass to the right corner of the end zone for James Washington. The receiver fielded the high ball, but was only able to get one whole foot inbounds, the toes of his left creeping onto the white. Then in the second game, he had a 24-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson taken away due to an offensive pass interference penalty that it’s not clear was justified.
This is quite the opposite from a season ago, when he threw two passes to Washington that the receiver turned into touchdowns on what were really sub-par throws, so it’s an important reminder to always judge by the tape, and not the statistics.