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Steelers Film Room: Breaking down Josh Dobbs’ incredible pass in Week 9

When Ben Roethlisberger exited, Josh Dobbs entered and made a huge play.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, Steelers Nation had a moment of collective panic when Ben Roethlisberger was lying down of the ground and looked to have a right shoulder injury. As he would only exit for one play, a 2nd and 20 would face the 2nd year man Josh Dobbs, who was getting his first NFL snap which was not taking a knee.

Note, Dobbs had no time to warm up, so he was coming onto the field completely cold. Now, that does not mean that his arm is not warmed up, because while that is in fact true, his mental state as a whole is not warmed up. His processing will not be up to par and the mental aspect of a defense to a backup QB can be rather disorienting once he is thrown straight into a game, especially when he is as young as Dobbs.

Then, you add on the stakes of the game. The Steelers are leading by only seven points and are backed up inside their own five in the fourth quarter. So, this is a huge play to call Dobbs in on and expect him to make a play, and yet, the young QB from Tennessee made the biggest play of the game.

Here it is, the mastery of this play by Dobbs. The kid with ice in his veins and the play that very possibly won the Steelers win the game. Right after the play, you felt the atmosphere change.

I like the look here. With JuJu Smith-Schuster as the split end (on the line of scrimmage) and Antonio Brown as the flanker (off the line) it immediately will give the Steelers numerous options. They can run a rub route and get a chunk play here, that is one very serious idea. They can run a smash concept and try to hit JuJu on the outside, but it seems likely the Ravens will be in zone with safeties over top and patrolling, so it is not a great call. You can flex AB out more and turn it into a seam and post combination, which could actually work. Or, there is the play action idea here. Play fake the ball, get the defense off guard and run zone killers like posts, crossers, and seams. That is what the Steelers end up doing.

From a schematic standpoint, you, as an offensive coordinator / QB want to always create mismatches. That is obviously how you exploit a defense even if they are as good as the Ravens. So, it is up to Fichtner to make a call here. He either goes with a run to Conner or with this play action per comments after the game. Fichtner made the gutsy call, but this is a fantastic job of pre-snap processing by Dobbs.

As you can see, he motions Jesse James to get a feel for this coverage. After seeing Kenny Young not follow Jesse James, it became clear that it was not man coverage. Not only that, but with it, Dobbs gets his extra blocker on the right side. Dobbs sees blitz and he is right all the way. The heavy set to the right is no mistake by the Ravens, it is a clear indication of a twist and that is exactly what Suggs and Williams do.

With the Ravens being in nickel here and Levine clearly being a blitzer, Dobbs knows the middle of the field will be open. He just has to fit this in between the cover 3 and CJ Mosley. How does Dobbs know it’s cover 3? Notice how far back Jimmy Smith is. It could be off-man, but he ruled that out once James motioned over. Check out Smith’s outside hip and foot. It is motioned towards the back sideline, meaning he is getting ready for a prime backpedal to get into his third of the field. It is certainly a modified cover 3 with five blitzing, but Baltimore doesn’t care about the flat, so this is just situational scheming.

Thus, Dobbs knows run won’t work here unless he gets a perfect seal. And with the right CBs playing a bit farther down, it is rather tough to seal this. I can’t tell you what the run would have been, but I am guessing a power to the right. That would have gotten maybe five yards here with the Ravens’ alignment.

So, Dobbs, with big balls in hand, runs the riskiest play he can. He has Washington running a streak, AB on a post, and JuJu on a crosser. On zone with cover 3, Washington is a virtual non-factor, but depending on how the high safety, Weddle, plays this, AB or JuJu are bound to be open.

Again, Dobbs literally notices the pressure, the coverage, and figures out his read. Weddle then plays this coverage about as well as you can, but Dobbs fires a frozen rope where only JuJu can corral this ball. This is an elite throw by Dobbs. It is a big boy throw. He has pressure in his face and he cannot step up all the way into this throw, so he shows off incredible arm strength here. That ball placement is straight money, and it was in a rather chaotic pocket with the twist. Dobbs stands in there with calm feet, which was not a trait of his in college, and he steps up to fire that rope.

To have the processing coming off the bench, and then to make about as perfect as a throw as you could for your first completion, I applaud Josh Dobbs. This was a franchise QB play. He is very, very smart and clearly knows what is going on. It is only one play, but it would be the play I would point to if I were to show his potential to be a future franchise QB. That does not mean he will be, but I am at the very least comfortable with him being the backup QB. And a far more competent one than Landry Jones.