The Steelers will hit Latrobe for Training Camp in just under two weeks as they begin their quest for a seventh Lombardi Trophy. The summer has come and gone (thankfully) with minimal excitement on the Steelers front. A truism of the NFL is that no good news can happen between the end of the Draft and the start of Training Camp. Over that time, most NFL news revolves around players getting suspended or injured. As we prepare for the formal beginning of the Steelers 2018 campaign, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. If you’re heading out to Latrobe to visit Training Camp this year, be sure to check out our sponsors Taps n’at for a wide selection of craft beers and food. Today we start with the Quarterback position, which with the addition of Mason Rudolph figures to be one of the most exciting positions to watch this year.
By The Numbers
2017 Passing Yards: 283.4 yards per game (3rd in NFL)
2017 Passing TDs: 29 (4th in NFL)
2017 Sacks Allowed: 24 (t-3rd in NFL)
Ben Roethlisberger (15th year), Landry Jones (6th year), Joshua Dobbs (2nd year)
Ben Roethlisberger entered last season after a speculative offseason as to whether or not it would be his final year. His tune changed this year (possibly due to the Steelers not renewing Todd Haley’s contract and promoting QB coach Randy Fichtner to Offensive Coordinator). Now Ben says he might play three or four more years. Ben had a slow start to 2017, but last year was the first time since 2014 that Ben did not miss a game because of injury. This resulted in him breaking the 4000-yard mark for the 5th time in his career. The clutch gene returned as well with Ben posting 3 Fourth Quarter Comebacks (he had put up 3 in the prior 2 seasons combined). We know what we are getting with Ben as he enters his 15th season in the league and as long as he is on the field the Steelers will have a chance to win any game they play.
Landry Jones is entering the last year of his contract and with the drafting of Mason Rudolph will likely be in his final year with the Steelers. The Steelers like Jones’ abilities as a backup and he knows the offense enough to be able to get the team in and out of a huddle and make audible calls at the line. Jones has won more games as a starter in the last two years than the Cleveland Browns organization. The Steelers spent a 4th round pick on Josh Dobbs out of Tennessee last year, and he saw extensive playing time in the preseason. In college, Dobbs was known for engineering a number of 4th quarter comebacks for the Volunteers, and showed this off in the preseason last year. Dobbs spent the entire year on the bench as the Steelers 3rd quarterback and is still eligible for the practice squad this year if the Steelers decide to keep on 3 quarterbacks.
Mason Rudolph (3rd round pick)
The Steelers traded Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders for a third round pick which they used to take Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph. Coming out of a wide-open pass-oriented offense at Oklahoma State, it will be interesting to see how quickly Rudolph is able to grasp the playbook and make calls in the huddle. Rudolph was known for his arm strength and his deep ball but also had a tendency to float some intermediate passes. By all accounts, he performed well in shorts during mini camp and OTAs. The competition will ramp up in training camp when he gets reps against the first team defense and we will likely see a heavy dose of Rudolph during the preseason. Rudolph’s progression and development during the preseason will be a key factor in not only his place on the depth chart but how many quarterbacks the Steelers decide to keep on the final roster.
After the Steelers drafted Rudolph, the narratives and storylines in the local media made the QB room sound like a reprise of Mean Girls. Storylines surrounding whether or not Ben and Mason had talked, if Ben would help Mason learn the offense, and others were commonplace in the months after the draft. To his credit, Mason Rudolph has been very professional in answering all the questions thrown his way and done his best not to stoke the fires that the local media is setting. While the Ben-Mason storyline may dominate the headlines at camp, the more interesting battle to watch will be between Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs for the third quarterback spot. The Steelers generally keep 3 QBs on the roster (and have kept 4 in the past). With Roethlisberger and Rudolph’s roster spots secure, it comes down to Jones vs Dobbs. Will the Steelers opt for the veteran who is comfortable with the playbook and calls or will they be confident enough in Rudolph as a #2 that they will look to trade or release Jones and keep Dobbs (who may be the #3 of the future). Rudolph’s development and play during the preseason, along with the potential trade market for Landry Jones, may dictate this decision. The Steelers could also try to sneak Josh Dobbs through waivers in an attempt to hold him on the practice squad for a year before Jones’ contract expires.