Last year was a strong indication of how a team’s QB depth could be tested. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers are a lot healthier this time around – knock on wood it stays that way – the COVID pandemic was all the reason Mike Tomlin needed to load up on depth wherever he could. That included having four quarterbacks in his building, claiming Josh Dobbs off waivers and signing Duck Hodges to the practice squad.
At his Week 1 press conference Tuesday, Tomlin explained the decision.
“We just felt like it was important in this circumstance to have four quarterbacks in the program,” Tomlin said. “Guys we’ve played ball with in the past. We believe that aids us. Duck in the position he’s in being a practice squad guy, this is a guy who started games for us a year ago. We believe that’s an asset to us. In this COVID environment, you can’t insulate yourself enough with quality depth at all positions.”
All four quarterbacks on the Steelers have logged Sunday playing time to various degrees of success. Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer. The rest…are not. But it’s rare to have every quarterback in the room have some gameday tape available, providing a small layer of comfort in an otherwise uncomfortable situation of the pandemic and all the time lost because of it.
Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles are using that #4 quarterback as a quarantine player. 41 year Josh McCown signed to the Eagles’ practice squad but will live in Texas during the season, not attending in-person practices, seemingly only to be brought in if there’s an outbreak of the virus in the QB room. Tomlin is taking a different approach, having all four quarterbacks inside the facility.
The goal this season is to not worry about the three men behind Roethlisberger. Not seeing Rudolph, Dobbs, or Hodges in game action would be the best possible outcome. It means Roethlisberger stayed healthy and played well. But last season showed how quickly things can change and the Steelers are protecting themselves the best way possible for an unprecedented 2020 season.