The Pittsburgh Steelers hit Training Camp in Latrobe on Thursday. When the Steelers start work, so do we. As our Training Camp Previews roll on, today we focus on the quarterbacks. The starter is not exactly a question mark but already around certain NFL analyst circles, there is concern that without a veteran backup the Steelers could be doomed should something happen to number seven. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s dive into the QBs.
By The Numbers
2018 Passing Yards: 313 yards per game (2nd in NFL)
2018 Passing TDs: 35 (T-5th in NFL)
2018 Sacks Allowed: 24 (4th in NFL)
Ben Roethlisberger (16th year)
I don’t know if you’ve seen photos of Big Ben lately but he looks even better than he did last season at this time. It’s clear he has taken his health seriously and is dead set on being his absolute best in 2019. All he did in 2019 was lead the NFL in passing yards with over 5,000 and he threw 35 touchdown passes. As great as those numbers were, not being in the postseason grinds Roethlisberger. He sees his contemporaries and it’s only natural for him to want to beat them or at the very least be in position to do so. While his numbers were great, I think he can be even better if the running game (ranked 31st in 2018) can get better and more consistent. Not only does it keep the pass rush at bay but it also gives his receivers that one extra second to get open. If Big Ben can get production out his receivers especially on the third down and in the red zone then I believe the sky will be the limit in 2019.
Joshua Dobbs (4th year)
Dobbs enters his fourth season (and final of his rookie season) as the incumbent backup quarterback. That status however is tentative at best. Dobbs is a smart, athletic player on the field and an outstanding person off of it. Unfortunately the same things that hindered him in college have remained. He struggles to lead receivers and doesn’t always get through his progressions choosing to use his legs rather than his arm. In 2018, Dobbs appeared very little. In the Baltimore game he fired a beautiful 22-yard strike to get the Steelers out of the shadow of their own goal posts. I thought perhaps he had improved upon his accuracy. Then in the loss in Oakland his struggles returned as he went 4 for 9 for 24 yards and an interception.
Mason Rudolph (2nd year)
Many teams including the Steelers had a first round grade on Mason Rudolph ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft. Getting him in the third is a pretty big coup but with that comes pressure. As long as Roethlisberger is healthy and effective he isn’t going anywhere. But Rudolph has to prove he’s not only worthy of taking the number two spot, he has to prove he can be the man sooner rather than later. We’ve learned he has had an excellent offseason and has increased is arm strength and timing. Having a full year in the playbook has to have been a benefit as well. Look for Rudolph to have a big preseason.
Devlin Hodges (1 season)
At first glance, Hodges appears to be nothing more than your typical ‘camp arm.’ This is a guy who is brought into camp to get some reps for the receivers, run some scout defense and give the other QBs a chance to rest their arms. Hodges may very well turn out to be this way but there are some rumblings that he’s been really impressive. So much so that he could challenge for a roster spot as the third quarterback. Hodges threw for over 14,000 yards at Samford University which ultimately doesn’t mean much but that’s pretty darn impressive any way you cut it.
I’m going to get right to the point here. The Steelers will again carry three quarterbacks on the roster. Each week, the third QB will not get a helmet as has been Mike Tomlin’s practice throughout his career. As for who that second and third QB will be? It’s Rudolph time in my book. If you’re Kevin Colbert you cannot have invested a high draft pick for a QB who can’t win the backup job. I’m not going to predict Hodges beating out Dobbs for the third QB but it will not surprise me if it happens.
My Roster Projection: Roethlisberger, Rudolph, Dobbs