The Pittsburgh Steelers made their feelings clear, about both players, when they made the decision yesterday to claim Joshua Dobbs off waivers and to waive Devlin Hodges, who started six games for the team last season, with the latter expected to be re-signed to the practice squad after he clears.
The three backup quarterbacks, including Mason Rudolph, battled it out in training camp last year, all three of them getting a sizable number of snaps, both in training camp and in preseason games. While Rudolph was determined to be the backup, Dobbs survived as the number three, something that some may forget in the aftermath of everything that went down last year.
Dobbs was the team’s number three quarterback in the season opener against the New England Patriots. It wasn’t until after the game, with the Jacksonville Jaguars suffering an injury to starter Nick Foles, that he was dealt for a fifth-round pick. The Steelers signed Hodges to the practice squad, but would be called up a week later after Ben Roethlisberger was injured.
It wasn’t clear what their view on Dobbs would be now. They obviously preferred him over Hodges last year, since they decided to carry him and not even keep the latter on the practice squad. Since then, however, Dobbs lost stature in Jacksonville, and Hodges got the opportunity to play in eight games, starting six, with some moments of positive play and the potential for growth as an undrafted rookie.
Even this offseason, he won the number three quarterback job, defeating Paxton Lynch, a former first-round draft pick, whom many believed would unseat him. He must have looked at least halfway decent in training camp, albeit with limited reps.
Given all that’s transpired since Dobbs was traded, things could have changed. The Steelers made it clear that they haven’t. They valued Dobbs then, and they still value him now, returning once again to serve as the number three quarterback, behind Roethlisberger and Rudolph.
He already spent two seasons and three offseasons with the Steelers, so I don’t think it will be much of an issue in terms of getting him back up to speed with what they’re doing, although he will be entirely new to quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. But he is kind of a rocket scientist, so I’m sure he can handle it.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2017 out of Tennessee, Dobbs has always been an interesting player. He is very intelligent, but doesn’t always make the best decisions on the field. He can make the big vertical throw, but struggles with accuracy on basic crossing routes. He is very athletic and can run the ball, but also took unnecessary sacks in the pocket.
Will he show any improvement from the point the Steelers last had him a little under a year ago? It won’t necessarily be required. In actuality, they don’t even necessarily have to intend to use him as the third quarterback. For example, if Roethlisberger were to go down this year, and Rudolph were injured for a short period of time, Hodges could still, in theory, start two games from the practice squad.
I’m sure it wouldn’t play out that way—I’m certain Dobbs would start in that scenario—but it points out the flexibility that the team now has with four quarterbacks. And now with a quarterbacks coach who can actually spent time teaching them.