In case for some reason you were thinking that this year the Pittsburgh Steelers might run the preseason a little differently and play all of their starters early on, Head Coach Mike Tomlin pretty much quashed that idea when he decided to hold out quarterback Ben Roethlisberger two days in a row.
After yesterday’s practice, he told reporters essentially that he chose to do so in order to give those opportunities—which in this case were situationally-based—to the young quarterbacks. Not just because they need the work far more, but because they are the ones who are going to be running in those situations in less than a week from now when the Steelers open up their preseason schedule.
“We’ve seen Ben in enough two minutes”, he told reporters. “As we push into preseason football, the guys that could be in position to execute two minutes in Week One or Week Two of the preseason are the guys that need the reps. We wanted to show homage to that”.
Those guys would be third-year quarterback Joshua Dobbs and second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph—perhaps with the addition of undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges. The former two have been pretty evenly splitting the work, running with the second-team unit when Roethlisberger practices and with the starters when he doesn’t. They have taken turns getting snaps in the Seven Shots drill, for instance.
Truth be told, however, neither of them have made the desired progress that you would expect to see, even this far into training camp. Dobbs started out worse, but has had a couple of better days. Rudolph was solid at the beginning, but is seemingly making some more poor decisions.
The Steelers should not be comfortable just yet with their backup quarterback position, but the preseason can take care of that if at least one of them performs well. Dobbs won the backup job last year in the preseason, but he wasn’t particularly effective when he was asked to play in the regular season.
However the rotation ends up shaking out, I just hope that both quarterbacks get a decent amount of time working with the best offensive line that they possibly can. One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating quarterback play of younger players in the preseason is simply the fact that they are so frequently under pressure because the depth offensive linemen are below par.
While you obviously want to see what a young player can achieve while facing pressure, you also want to get a look at how he runs the offense from a clean pocket as well. The Steelers seem to have good depth this year, for the most part, but the starting offensive line may yet again be asked to play a good amount of snaps, with perhaps the exception of Maurkice Pouncey.