I’m not sure I can recall a time since perhaps Kordell Stewart that the Pittsburgh Steelers ever entered a game with the explicit intention of using multiple different quarterbacks, with one of them serving a sub-package role, at least before this past week’s regular season finale.
With Ben Roethlisberger resting in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers started Mason Rudolph at quarterback, and Joshua Dobbs dressed for the first time this season to serve as his backup—and more.
They broke out a sub-package in which the fourth-year quarterback replaced Rudolph and ran a read-option play, doing so more than half a dozen times throughout the game, at times situationally, for example on third and short, or when trying to get into field goal range on third and long. Some plays were successful, others, not so much.
What it did accomplish is that it gave the Browns, whom they also played this past week, something else to study and prepare for—whether or not the Steelers actually intend to use it in the postseason. Head coach Mike Tomlin did say after the game, specifically when asked, that it was a possibility, but it’s impossible to know if he was being sincere or he just wanted Cleveland to prepare for something they won’t need to prepare for.
And they will prepare for it, as Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski noted when speaking to reporters yesterday. “They had wrinkles yesterday with Dobbs coming in there to run it”, he said. “They absolutely could do that again this week or not. That is part of the preparation. There is the game theory in trying to understand what they are doing and how it informs your decisions and game planning”.
If the Steelers intend to use Dobbs, then they will in all likelihood have to find an extra helmet and dress all three quarterbacks. It would be a dead giveaway that they are not going to use him if they don’t choose to dress him, to state the glaringly obvious.
It certainly would be an interesting and surprising wrinkle on the Steelers’ part, though like I mentioned earlier, it’s not necessarily entirely unheard of. Dobbs might not be Slash, but there is a precedent for the team using a mobile sub-package quarterback, and it’s not as though Bill Cowher was known for his offensive innovation.
If Tomlin is smart, no matter what he plans, he keeps saying it’s a possibility and he finds a way to dress him for the game. Even if they don’t put him on the field, they have the threat there. They could even put both Dobbs and Roethlisberger on the field together, with perhaps Dobbs in the wing.