The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2020 regular season with one of the oldest starting quarterbacks in the league—and probably one of the youngest groups of backups. After claiming Joshua Dobbs off waivers, the team has three receivers who are entering their second, third, and fourth seasons, all three up them 25 years of age or younger.
And in the case of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, they will have a designated quarterbacks coach for the first time after Randy Fichtner spend the past two years trying to pull double duty, with rather unspectacular results in 2019 when they actually had to play.
This offseason, the team decided to hire Matt Canada to take over as quarterbacks coach, a post that Fichtner held since 2010, even after being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018. With the latter now focused on that role, it’s up to Canada to nurture and grow these young arms.
A fourth-round pick in 2017, Dobbs was the team’s primary backup in 2018, but had to play little, only getting into one game. He made the team last year as the third quarterback, but was traded a game into the season for a fifth-round pick.
Rudolph was drafted in the third round in 2018, the highest the team has taken a quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. They said when drafting him that they had a first-round grade on him, and he enters the year as the clear backup, even if he has a lot to prove.
Hodges was an undrafted rookie last year. He was signed to the practice squad after Dobbs was traded, then promoted to the 53-man roster to be Rudolph’s backup after Roethlisberger was injured, ultimately playing in eight games and starting six. He beat out Paxton Lynch for the third quarterback role days ago, but was waived and re-signed to the practice squad after Dobbs was claimed off waivers.
Canada will now have his hands full working with all of these young quarterbacks, but then again, that’s what he’s spent the past couple of decades doing at the college level. With a new voice in their ears bringing new ideas and new drills, it will be interesting to see what kind of growth they are able to make—although you want to see that in August, not September and beyond, because if they’re playing, it may mean something bad.
He won’t be alone, of course. As the offensive coordinator and a longtime quarterbacks coach, Fichtner will remain intimately involved in the process when possible, especially as it concerns gameplanning. Third-year coaching assistant Matt Symmes has also been a significant name in working with the quarterbacks, and will continue to do so.
Now with a young room, it feels as though the Steelers may finally be equipped to actually handle the backup quarterback position the way it ought to have been all along—in contrast to the ways that perhaps may have cost them the past two years.