Josh Dobbs’ hot start sends Steelers to win in preseason finale
He threw passes that were crisp and on target. He used his legs to create plays and even scored a touchdown. He ran what constituted the first-team offense with poise and confidence.
Josh Dobbs did everything possible Thursday night to keep his spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.
Now, he’ll have to wait.
The second-year quarterback led the Steelers to touchdowns on their first two possessions and put together three scoring drives in a 39-24 victory against the Carolina Panthers in the preseason finale at Heinz Field.
Starting and playing most of the half, Dobbs completed 8 of 12 passes for 151 yards. He threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Jones and ran for a 3-yard score among his three carries for 18 yards.
It was Dobbs’ best performance of the preseason, but was it enough to stay on the 53-man roster along with Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones and rookie Mason Rudolph?
“We’ve got four above-the-line quarterbacks,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “None of them beat themselves. None of them waned in terms of their enthusiasm or efforts, and that’s good for them and good for us.”
Roster cutdowns must be made by 4 p.m. Saturday, and Dobbs has given general manager Kevin Colbert and Tomlin much to chew on. The Steelers never have kept a fourth quarterback on the active roster in Tomlin’s tenure, and they haven’t done it since 1995.
“That will all play itself out,” Dobbs said. “I don’t know what the future holds. I think that’s just how it is and that’s the business we’re in. You can’t worry about those type of things.”
Dobbs’ supporting cast against the Panthers was a collective of backups and other players trying to survive the cut as Tomlin rested all of his offensive starters and nine of 11 on defense.
Dobbs had a near-perfect passer rating after two possessions, and he finished with a sizzling 137.5 mark. For the preseason, Dobbs completed 29 of 43 passes for 434 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 111.9 rating.
“He’s been stacking these games,” said wide receiver Justin Hunter, who caught three of Dobbs’ passes for 72 yards. “His ceiling is high.”
Dobbs played in the preseason like he had nothing to lose.
“I don’t really get too nervous,” he said. “I don’t really play that game. I know it’s a stressful time, and I’ll let it play itself out. That’s all I can do.”
On the Steelers’ opening drive, Dobbs led the offense 79 yards in 10 plays. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 66 yards. He also showed his elusiveness on a third-and-6 when he fumbled the snap, recovered the loose ball, sidestepped a sack and broke containment for a 17-yard scramble.
He also converted a third-and-10 with an 18-yard toss to Justin Hunter. An 8-yard completion set up a 36-yard toss to tight end Bucky Hodges that put the ball on the Panthers 3. On the touchdown, Dobbs faked the handoff to Jaylen Samuels, then ran to his right. He cut back to avoid a tackle, then leaped over two other defenders, landing in the end zone.
“When you know you’re getting limited time, you want to go out guns blazing,” Dobbs said. “It’s very important to have that key drive, get in a rhythm quickly and early and have guys make plays for you.”
Dobbs wasn’t on the field long for his second drive. He threw a 46-yard completion down the middle to Hunter, who wrestled the ball away from cornerback LaDarius Gunter. A reverse to Damoun Patterson gained 13 yards, and Dobbs punctuated the drive with a 27-yard scoring strike to Jones, his first of two touchdowns in the game.
The other scoring drive with Dobbs in the game came midway through the second quarter. Aided by a pair of roughing-the-passer penalties, the Steelers advanced to the Panthers 3 before Chris Boswell kicked a 21-yard field goal.
Rudolph replaced Dobbs with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining left in the half after Ola Adeniyi forced a fumble and Keion Adams recovered at the Panthers 29. Rudolph threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jones, a first-year player from Memphis who had three catches for 90 yards.
Rudolph ran for the 2-point conversion but picked up a taunting penalty after the play.
He played the entire second half and completed 5 of 9 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Rudolph’s second touchdown pass was a 7-yard throw that Quadree Henderson pulled down with 3:01 left in the third quarter for a 32-10 lead. Henderson went high in the air and made a one-handed grab, holding onto the ball as he landed in the end zone.
Linebacker Matthew Thomas, enhancing his case to make the team, had a strip-sack of Kyle Allen on the first play of the fourth quarter. Thomas plucked the fumble out of the air and returned it 75 yards, coming up a yard short of the end zone before he was dragged down.
Jarvion Franklin finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown to hike the lead to 39-10.