While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 roster looks set at several positions as the team prepares to hold their rookie minicamp on Friday, there are still a handful of starting roles yet to be decided and a number of backup up roles remain up for grabs.
Over the coming weeks, BTSC editor Jeff Hartman and myself will take a look at some of the more obvious key names that will be fighting position battles throughout minicamp, OTAs and training camp later in the year, each taking a different side in the fight and providing our thoughts on why our pick will be the winner. First up for discussion, the quarterbacks.
Joshua Dobbs vs. Mason Rudolph
Selected in back-to-back years, Josh Dobbs coming via the fourth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft and Mason Rudolph a season later via the third-round, neither player is in any real danger of losing his job to an outsider this offseason, with Brogan Roback the only other quarterback currently on the roster. But if either player has any hopes of one day assuming the position currently held by Ben Roethlisberger, both will need to show enough improvement in 2019 to convince the coaching staff that it might one day be possible.
That being said, becoming the starting quarterback in Pittsburgh is a long way off with Roethlisberger now under contract for three more seasons; the bigger concern for the two prospects in 2019 revolves around who will win the battle to be the backup to Big Ben this year.
That title belonged to Dobbs in 2018 and while retaining the role would be a good sign for his future with the Steelers, those who believe that Rudolph has the qualities to become a starter in the NFL will expect a significant leap in his second season - one that could possibly include taking the backup role away from Dobbs.
For all those in the ‘Mason Rudolph Fan Club’, of which I am a charter member, the thought of Rudolph not passing Dobbs as the primary backup to Roethlisberger is downright deflating. Luckily for those in the Fan Club, I don’t foresee this happening. The Steelers made an investment, although not a rich investment, in Rudolph, and after spending his rookie season watching and learning it is his time to be the QB2 on the depth chart. This isn’t a knock on Dobbs, but to me Rudolph is a more polished quarterback with a better skill set to orchestrate the Steelers’ offense if Roethlisberger goes down. Dobbs will certainly remain on the roster, but the two quarterbacks will swap positions in 2019 with Dobbs being the game day inactive this year.
While admittedly a fan of Mason Rudolph and the potential he hinted at during college, I cannot deny an increasing sense of belief in the abilities of Josh Dobbs heading into his third season. Judging the development of any quarterback forced to sit behind Roethlisberger is challenging and it is difficult to make many assumptions based on the 12 passes Dobbs threw in five limited appearances last year coming off the bench.
However, based on his performances during preseason in 2018, Dobbs was a completely different quarterback than the one who suited up as a rookie. Showing far more confidence and a much better command of the playbook, the added dimension that Dobbs offers as a runner over Rudolph could well put him over the top in the race for the backup role if he can prove he has made a similar leap again this year.
The ability of both young quarterbacks to support Ben Roethlisberger and act as an extra set of eyes for him on the field will also be significant in the race to back up Big Ben and it would not be a surprise to learn that Dobbs is the one who is further along in that regard. The former Tennessee product should enter the preseason in pole position to be the backup and it will be up to Rudolph to take the job away from him. As long as Dobbs can show he has improved again, the only way his rival should be able to take his job is by being close to perfect, and that is a big ask for Rudolph in year two.
Who wins the Steelers camp battle?
This poll is closed