Wouldn’t that be something? Have you ever made a seemingly outlandishly random statement about something that actually eventually happened? We all have in one way or another, but they always stick out in our minds when they do. My wife and I experienced just such a situation last year concerning Steelers QB Joshua Dobbs.
I was watching the 2017 NFL Combine on the tv when my wife walked through carrying laundry. She glanced over and asked “Who’s working out today?” I explained it was the QB’s group and that I didn’t expect the Steelers to draft one, especially in the early rounds, because I just didn’t see the need. But you always do your due diligence because you never know who may fall to you and you must be prepared for just such a situation.
About that time QB Joshua Dobbs from Tennessee popped on the screen preparing to run his initial 40 yard dash. My wife saw him and asked “Does he have that condition where you don’t have any body hair?” I explained that he indeed suffers from Alopecia but it had no effect on his ability to play the position. She seemed intrigued and sat down to watch him run his 40. After he finished running the drill she got up to leave the room and said “He has nice legs, he runs well. The Steelers should draft him.” I thought to myself, leave it to my wife to suggest drafting a QB because he has nice legs.
You can imagine my surprise when a couple of months later I was watching the 2017 NFL Draft and the fourth round rolled around. When they announced the Steelers selection I am sure my jaw hit the ground and I hollered to my wife in the kitchen, “Honey, you ain’t going to believe this.” She just smiled sheepishly like she knew it all along.
I was surprised to say the least with the pick. I wasn’t very familiar with Dobbs game as I spent zero time researching him prior to the draft. The only play I could recall from his college career was the Hail Mary game winning pass to defeat Georgia, and I was only watching that game because Georgia had a couple of players I thought would look good in Black and Gold. I also knew he was a highly intelligent individual, on a rocket scientist level. That was because you couldn’t watch a SEC telecast involving Tennessee without hearing it mentioned two or three times per game. I get it, I would want to highlight my scholar athletes too if I was the SEC marketing director.
Last year turned out to be for all intents and purposes a NFL ‘redshirt’ year for Dobbs. He struggled out of the gate in the preseason with his accuracy as predicted by most draft pundits, but his performance improved as the preseason went along. He impressed the coaches enough to earn the QB3 roster spot but never saw the field during the season and was most often listed on the inactive list.
Going into the off season I am sure Dobbs had to feel pretty good about his situation feeling he had proven the magnitude of the NFL wasn’t too big for him and his main competition for the QB2 position was a glorified clipboard holder who’s real value was as an assistant quarterbacks coach and another trusted pair of eyes on the sidelines for Ben during the game.
Dobbs immediately went to work after the season on his mechanics and footwork to help improve his overall throwing accuracy and submerged himself in the playbook. His mindset, for all intents and purposes, was to compete this year with Landry Jones for the backup position. With the Steelers glaring needs on defense, it seemed unlikely that he would have to battle any new competition for the position. But life is full of surprises, and they aren't always good ones.
The Steelers selected Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State University in the third round and suddenly Dobb's Steeler future lost some clarity. Everybody, including myself, wrote Dobb's Steeler obituary. Why wouldn't you? For one, Rudolph was far more a Big Ben clone than Dobbs would ever be. Rudolph lacked Ben's arm talent and athleticism, but reportedly possessed many of his other attributes. Add in the fact that it was hard to fathom the Steelers going into a season with two inexperienced QBs backing up Roethlisberger, and the deck appeared pretty stacked against Dobbs making the team.
Then the preseason games started, and everything changed. Dobbs refused to go quietly into that dark night. He came to compete and refused to take no for an answer. He didn't whine, pout, or throw shade at Rudolph for being drafted to take his job. He said all the right things and acted like a professional, and earned his position. Not just any position, the position I thought he had no chance of obtaining, QB2.
He won the roster spot by out performing the competition. He made plays whenever given the opportunity, he lead scoring drives, he flew through the air for a touchdown, and he displayed improved accuracy on multiple touchdown passes. He was confident and in charge of his offense. He put the Steelers brass in a tough situation. How can you tell the players that they can make the team through hard work and dedication, then turn around and cut the player that embodied that description? Turns out they couldn't.
While Watt, JuJu, and Conner are making their presence felt this season, Dobbs has yet to see the field. That is, besides a game ending kneel down against Atlanta, and Steelers Nation would have it no other way. Dobbs is present and accounted for every game, mentally engaged and assisting the team anyway he can. The mental reps are invaluable, as are the practice time during the week when Ben takes a rest day.
I would love to see the Steelers design a few plays to take advantage of Dobb's abilities and give defenses one more thing to think about, ala Lamar Jackson of the Ravens, but the offense is still trying to find their timing and their true identity, so that may not be in the cards right now.
The 2017 draft class is already proving to be a impressive group, and the future success of our Steelers depends on just that. Dobbs may just turn out to be a valuable member of that success. Hopefully we won't have to find out for a couple more years, but it wouldn't surprise me if he is more than ready if and when we find out.