If there’s one thing about professional football that’s no secret, it’s that it’s a harsh, harsh business.
Take, for example, coming into the NFL as a young, unproven quarterback, whose draft pedigree doesn’t afford you a legitimate opportunity to improve on a consistent basis, or at leastshow you’ve improved.
That perfectly sums up the early portion of Steelers' third-string quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ career after one season in the league. Dobbs, a fourth-round pick out of Tennessee in the 2017 NFL Draft, played in every preseason game last summer, completing a combined 38 of 74 pass attempts for 406 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
That’s very young-quarterback-like.
As the third-string signal-caller behind Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones, Dobbs was relegated to mostly quarterback meetings, film study and whatever reps he received in practice during the course of the season.
Sure, practice reps are nice, as is film study, but you really can’t “show your work” unless you get into a game.
This is the dilemma most young quarterbacks, the ones not drafted in the first or second round, face when they first come into the league.
And what do you do when the incumbent is a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who’s destined for Canton?
So has Dobbs improved from last year to this year? If Thursday night’s performance in the Steelers preseason opener in Philadelphia was any indication, it would appear so.
Did you see that laser of a touchdown pass to receiver Damoun Patterson late in the second quarter? That, right there, was a professional football throw made by a guy with big-time arm strength.
Furthermore, Dobbs showed off his running prowess earlier in the half when he scampered 18 yards to set up Pittsburgh’s second touchdown of the night.
This isn’t to say Dobbs wasn’t without his faults on Thursday. He was intercepted on a pass he threw late and across the field, and he could have easily been picked off another time. But he’s a young quarterback who, again, hadn’t played any meaningful football since last August in Carolina. Therefore, there’s hope for continued improvement from the young Mr. Dobbs.
It’s just too bad Dobbs won’t get a chance to continue to improve as a young Steelers quarterback beyond this summer.
When you trade away Martavis Bryant to secure a third-round pick and use that third-round pick to draft a quarterback that you reportedly had a first-round grade on, that guy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Steelers did precisely that this past April, bringing in quarterback Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State.
Suddenly, Dobbs became a young quarterback without a team.
No, not officially, but the handwriting was pretty much on the wall in April, and it’s still up there on the wall now in August.
It might seem sexy to think Mike Tomlin could very well choose Dobbs over Jones, but that would be the exact opposite of what just about any head coach would do in this situation.
A Super Bowl contender going into the regular season with two virtual babies backing up its franchise quarterback? Let’s face it, there was a reason why veterans named Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Bruce Gradkowski were Pittsburgh’s second-string quarterbacks during the past 10 seasons.
There was a reason the organization was willing to kick the hornet’s nest that was Michael Vick’s checkered history by signing him off the street to be the backup in 2015 after Gradkowski was lost for the regular season.
And despite his lack of popularity in Steelers Nation, there was a reason the front-office decided to bring Jones back on a two-year deal following the 2016 season.
Coaches like to punt on 4th-and- 2 from midfield, and coaches like to have that veteran quarterback as their backup.
What about the practice squad? Nah, Dobbs is too good for the practice squad (again, did you see that laser of a touchdown pass to Damoun Patterson on Thursday?).
Thankfully for Dobbs, he still has a few more weeks and three more preseason games to audition for a spot on someone else’s roster in 2018.
And Joshua Dobbs certainly deserves to be on someone’s roster in 2018.