Tim Benz: Josh Dobbs smart enough to make most of chance

September 27, 2018

Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs evades the Panthers’ pass rush Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at Heinz Field.

Whenever Josh Dobbs is done with football, he’ll have doors opening for him. Guys with 4.0 GPAs in aerospace engineering tend to have opportunities.

On Thursday night, though, he played like a guy who wants to make football his life’s work a while longer.

“I’ve played football since I was 5,” Dobbs said. “I know I do a lot off the field. But I don’t know what it’s like to not play football. I don’t know what a fall is without playing football. This is my 19th season. This is all I know.”

There’s one for the war-on-football crowd. The kid who could do more with his brain before he’s 30 than many of us will do in our lifetimes thinks this game is too important for him to give up yet.

Even if that means getting scratched on gameday, getting stashed on injured reserve, languishing on a practice squad or bouncing around from team to team.

That’s good enough for the smartest guy in the room.

“I cherish every moment,” Dobbs said. “You never know when your last play is. You never know when you might not step on that field again and play. So you can’t take the opportunity to play this game we love for granted.”

Staring a potential roster cut in the face, the Steelers second-year quarterback stood out with an excellent performance in a 39-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night at Heinz Field in the preseason finale.

When the Steelers drafted Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round this year, the writing was on the wall for Dobbs. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger as a superstar starter and Landry Jones as an established backup.

Clubs almost never keep four QBs.

It became clear Dobbs was going to have to be something extraordinary in the preseason for the Steelers to find a roster spot for him.

It’d be awfully easy for the Steelers to let Dobbs walk. They have those three options at quarterback. Most teams only dress two on gameday, and some only have two on the roster. Aside from practice purposes, extra passers are a waste of roster space.

But it’s hard for coaches to cut players who prove they have talent and play well enough to keep their jobs, especially those who were drafted and developed in house.

Dobbs appeared to do that against the Panthers, completing 8 of 12 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown without a turnover. He also had 18 rushing yards and scored on the ground.

Plus, Dobbs kept multiple plays alive in the pocket with his feet.

After the game, offensive lineman Matt Feiler spoke of Dobbs bringing a blend of excitement and calm to the huddle. Feiler described Dobbs as being simultaneously “collected” and “enthusiastic.”

“He ran the game,” Feiler said. “It began to pour down through the team. The team was feeling it.

“He was looking to get respect, and he got respect.”

So Mike Tomlin has a tough decision to make on Dobbs after he finished 29 of 43 for 434 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason. That’s a 111.9 passer rating.

“We’ve got four above-the-line quarterbacks,” Tomlin said. “None of them beat themselves. None of them waned in terms of enthusiasm or efforts. That’s good for them and good for us.”

It could be good for the Steelers if Dobbs has shown enough skill that they can trade him for a draft pick. It could be good for the Steelers if they can find an injury worthy of stashing Dobbs on injured reserve until Jones likely leaves via free agency next year.

Hey, he did take those two roughing-the-passer penalties on back-to-back hits. You sure all those ribs are intact, Josh? Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

It could be good for the Steelers if they cut Dobbs and hope he sneaks on to the practice squad. The more depth at the position, the better. But that’s unlikely for a fourth-round pick last year who appears to have gotten better.

If that happens, and he doesn’t make it through, good for him. He deserves a chance with a team where he might get a crack at dressing on gameday. The Steelers can’t be upset about that. That potential became likely the minute they selected Rudolph.

It’s simply not smart to keep four quarterbacks on the active roster, though. And Dobbs is certainly smart enough to know that.

Now let’s see if the Steelers are smart enough to stash him or if other teams are smart enough to at least make him their third QB.

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