Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is offering a little intrigue heading into the team’s first postseason game in three years, leaving both fans, the media, and the Cleveland Browns to speculate as to whether or not they may dress and play third-string quarterback Joshua Dobbs to be utilized as a sub-package player tot make use of his athletic ability.
Resting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger among other starters in the season finale against the Browns earlier this week, the Steelers started Mason Rudolph at quarterback, who overall fared well in his first extended action since late in 2019, but they also supplemented his play with Dobbs, who came in for seven or eight plays to run a read-option offense.
He was ultimately credited with carrying the ball twice for 20 yards and attempting five ‘passes’, completing four for just a couple of yards. But it’s a look that the Steelers haven’t shown before, and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged that it’s something they have to prepare for, whether they run it or not.
During his pre-game press conference yesterday, Tomlin would not give a definitive answer—not only as to whether or not they would use Dobbs, but even as to who would dress. He allowed for the possibility that either one of Rudolph or Dobbs would dress and thus also serve as the backup quarterback, or that they would dress both.
My inclination is that, following Sunday’s performance, they are going to continue to use Rudolph as their primary backup quarterback, but it remains a possibility that they still choose to dress Dobbs and at least leave the option on the table of utilizing him. They haven’t dressed three quarterbacks for a game in a long time, but if they do, here’s how they would do it.
As I write this, the Steelers currently have 50 players on the 53-man roster, but figure to be getting four players back—up to four, at least. Both Matt Feiler and Robert Spillane sound as though they will be activated from the Reserve/Injured List, while Eric Ebron and Cassius Marsh should return from the Reserve/Covid-19 List.
The easy cut in order to accommodate the extra player is to let go of Tegray Scales, the inside linebacker who was promoted from the practice squad only due to injury, but if Spillane returns, he would no longer be needed.
With the new rules this year, teams only need to have five inactive players, as long as one of the 48 active players is an eighth offensive lineman, so assuming the aforementioned moves, these are the likely five players who would be mad inactive in order to accommodate three gameday helmets for the quarterback position.
Isaiah Buggs started out the season as the backup defensive tackle, but rookie Carlos Davis took over that role, and he has been a healthy scratch often. Safety Antoine Brooks has often been inactive as well, as has another member of the rookie class, running back Anthony McFarland, in recent weeks.
With Feiler returning, that would give the Steelers nine linemen. Danny Isidora would likely be the one to sit, with Feiler or Kevin Dotson dressing as the backup guard (the other starting), J.C. Hassenauer as the backup center, and Jerald Hawkins as the backup tackle.
Then you have a decision to make between Marsh and Jayrone Elliott. Elliott has become a fixture on special teams, but Marsh has more defensive experience and also plays on special teams. It could depend on practice time, but I lean toward Marsh getting the helmet and Elliott being inactive.
So if the Steelers dress both Rudolph and Elliott anticipate Sunday’s inactive list looking something like this: DT Isaiah Buggs; S Antoine Brooks; RB Anthony McFarland; OL Danny Isidora; OLB Jayrone Elliott.