Sammie Coates Trade Shows Steelers Won’t Be Tied To Sunken Cost Fallacy Regarding Joshua Dobbs

If the Pittsburgh Steelers were assembling their 53-man roster today, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Joshua Dobbs would be on it, though he may end up being listed as the third-string quarterback behind Mason Rudolph, who has had a better showing through two preseason games in his second year.

Realistically, the scenario that exists in which the team makes the decision that the best course of action for the team is to trade Dobbs and retain rookie college free agent quarterback Devlin Hodges on the 53-man roster remains unlikely. It’s generally not how the team has operated in the past.

But if they elect not to trade Dobbs, it will not be because they drafted him the fourth round in 2017. This was recently implied by Bob Labriola in answering a question yesterday for Asked and Answered, and I saw the quote floating around.

What they could get in return for Dobbs wouldn’t even come close to replacing the fourth-round pick they spent on him in the 2017 NFL Draft”, Labriola said at the end of a response that essentially implied that this would be a deterrent to the team trading him.

But the Steelers have very recent precedent that shows they are not beholden to such a sunken cost fallacy. In 2017, at the exact same spot in his career as Dobbs is now, the team traded 2015 third-round pick Sammie Coates, plus a seventh-round pick, to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

The team felt that it could part with Coates because there was still Antonio Brown, with Martavis Bryant returning from suspension, JuJu Smith-Schuster having been drafted in the second round, Justin Hunter was added in free agency, and Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey remained with the team as well. They had a group of six players they were happy with without him, so they decided to get what they could for him.

In other words, there’s no season to think that if the Steelers feel Rudolph is the more capable backup, and that Hodges has outperformed Dobbs and/or has more upside, they would pull back on making a move simply because of what they had previously invested in him.

And they had no hesitation in releasing 2016 fourth-round pick Doran Grant right after making the initial 53-man roster during his rookie season. He was re-signed to the practice squad and eventually made it back to the 53-man roster before failing to make the team the following year, but the point is that they were willing to part with him immediately regardless of what they invested in him.

In order for this scenario to play out—Hodges making the roster, whether Dobbs is traded or simply released—it still requires that Hodges continue to play well over the next two games, arguably better than he has already played, and Dobbs would probably have to play worse than he has. It’s still unlikely, I think. But it’s not because of how Dobbs came into the league.

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