The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the gridiron Thursday night, thankfully for the last time of the meaningless preseason. However, not everything which takes place during a preseason game is meaningless. In fact, I give you three glaring observations from the Steelers come-from-behind win over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night.
Next up? The regular season...here we go.
The light went on for Josh Dobbs in the fourth quarter.
Dobbs has had a ho-hum preseason, which isn’t at all unexpected for a rookie fourth-round draft pick. No one expected to see him come out and look like Ben Roethlisberger’s heir-apparent. He does have the potential, with a great combination of athletic gifts and intelligence, but he’s a long, long way from pulling it all together.
He took a massive step toward that, though, in the fourth quarter Thursday night. After starting the game just 7 of 14 for 84 yards, something clicked. He was suddenly seeing the field better, and making much quicker reads. It showed, as he went 9 of 9 for 128 yards on the team’s final two drives. The first ended after a 34-yard completion, for which Dobbs had to escape pressure and step up in the pocket to throw to Cobi Hamiilton, when Hamilton fumbled after a nice jumping catch and run.
The final drive was aided by an outstanding, 20-yard punt return by Demarcus Ayers, who may end up being the beneficiary of Hamilton’s gaffe — as well as a muffed punt earlier in the game by Trey Williams — when final cuts are made. Beginning at his own 47, Dobbs took the Steelers 53 yards in 49 seconds, with no timeouts, which looked in doubt from the outset when tight end Jake McGee failed to get out of bounds on a short catch on first down. Then, facing 3rd and 7 from the 50, with 25 seconds remaining, Dobbs would hit Marcus Tucker on consecutive plays for a total of 49 yards, to the Carolina 1. Tucker fought, and got out of bounds, and Dobbs would run it in himself on the next play for the winning score.
He ended with very Roethlisberger-like numbers, at 16 of 23 for 212 yards and a touchdown to Justin Hunter in the first half.
The running back depth chart should be pretty clear by now.
Terrell Watson left little doubt Thursday night.
And, just for the record, Watson is an absolute load. He’s hard to take down, never gets stood up at the point of attack, and does some of his finest work after first contact.
Until this point in the pre-season, either Fitzgerald Toussaint or Knile Davis played with the starting offense. Toussaint didn’t play Thursday, but he might have wished he did after Watson ran for 89 yards on 19 carries. Twelve of those carries covered at least four yards, including runs of 11 and 12 yards.
Davis entered late and ran five times for a meager 13 yards, which has been pretty much par for the course this season.
Matt Galambos will make the final roster — in 2018.
In the meantime, the local-kid inside linebacker is pretty much a lock to end up on the practice squad, and stay under the radar all season.
He played sparingly in the first three games, but when he was on the field, he looked like he knew what he was doing. He had a rather pedestrian two assists in the final game, but he added a diving interception of a tipped ball. That shows awareness. Add to that the fact that he shows good ability in the run game to flow down the line and get through traffic, which he demonstrated several times in the first three pre-season games.
Knowing that Steven Johnson and L.J. Fort, who both have five years of NFL experience and are probably at their ceilings, are most likely battling for the final inside linebacker spot behind Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams and Tyler Matakevich, Galambos has zero chance of making the roster this season. But if he continues to show improvement on the practice squad this year, there is little reason to believe he isn’t a strong candidate to supplant whoever gets that fourth spot at final cut-downs on Saturday.