Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs is not going to set the world on fire when he opens the team’s first 2017 pre-season game as their starter. He doesn’t have to.
Landry Jones, the team’s primary backup since 2013, has continued to leave the door open for a better option to come along. Really, that’s true for nearly any backup quarterback: there is a reason they aren’t a starter somewhere, and there are guys all over the league — not to mention the dearth of barely-mediocre passers waiting for a phone call from their agent — who would love the chance to knock even a number-two quarterback off his perch.
Jones and Dobbs were both fourth-round selections in their respective drafts, and were each the seventh quarterback selected. The difference that often gets overlooked is that the 2013 NFL Draft may have been the worst draft since the AFL/NFL merger, or at least the second-worst. The list of quarterbacks taken before Jones isn’t exactly a who’s-who of NFL quarterbacking talent: E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson. That’s not to say the six guys taken ahead of Dobbs won’t also be awful, but it’s not likely they will be that awful.
Jones has served the Steelers as well as a backup can be expected to perform. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be hoping for an improvement. Dobbs has the chance to demonstrate that Friday night, and maybe even show that he’s at least worth investing the work into, to see if he may be even more than adequate.
He’s got his share of problems, but most come down to mechanics and consistency. Often, if a quarterback fixes the former, he fixes the latter at the same time. As a literal rocket scientist, he’s not hurting for intelligence, and has shown to be fairly malleable so far in training camp. How that translates to a game won’t be known until Friday, but his arrow is, as head coach Mike Tomlin likes to say, “pointing up.”
With Ben Roethlisberger not likely to even suit up, and with Jones still nursing an abdominal injury, expect to get an extended look from Dobbs. He should play the first half, at the very least, before perhaps giving way to Bart Houston.
It’s okay if you don’t have any clue who that is. At this point, I’m not sure most of the players on the Steelers’ training camp roster know who he is yet.
One thing Dobbs should not be afraid of on Friday night is failure. He’s a strong athlete who has the mental ability to conquer any aspect of this game. Rather than approach the game with timidity, he should put those skills to use. He’s not likely to have many regular starters at his disposal, but he should still have enough talent around him to keep from looking like he’s playing pre-season mop-up time.
It’s not a regular-season game. But it’s still the type of opportunity any young quarterback would love to have. Dobbs is getting his chance; don’t expect a kid this sharp to waste it.