With future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger obviously locked in as the Pittsburgh Steelers starter for the foreseeable future, it would be easy to overlook the battle to be the team’s backup in 2019. But while Big Ben has only missed three games due to injury over the last three season; at 37-years-old, it seems reasonable to be concerned how long that trend will continue.
A productive preseason saw Joshua Dobbs win the job in 2018 to the detriment of Landry Jones’ continued employment and there is every chance of a changing of the guard this offseason if the improvements Mason Rudolph has reportedly made translate to game situations.
And when speaking to reporters during mandatory minicamp, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner was quick to sing the praises of Rudolph when asked which player was ahead in the pecking order.
“Mason has made strides, Josh is still being productive from a stand point of doing what we ask. I like the competition of where they are at, they understand that it is competition, that it’s open. But to me, that position’s always going to be open, no matter who’s here. That battle is every single day, trying to put us in the best position that if Ben’s not in the game, that we have put the right guy in to give us a chance to win a game.”
Noting a change in Rudolph coming into the second year, while Fichtner appears willing to entertain the possibility of the former Oklahoma State quarterback winning the No.2 role, he is clearly reluctant to discount the potential of Dobbs.
“Lot more comfortable, lot more comfortable, better communication. It’s easier just to see him break the huddle and feel confident about what he called. There’s a lot of thinking that goes on. Make no mistake that any quarterback in this league that plays as a young guy coming in the league, there’s a transition time. And for him, I’m thankful that he has that transition time. Unfortunately, he really doesn't because he’s got to try to be the backup right now, I want him to be the backup, but I want Josh to be the backup too.”
The division of reps during training camp should be a good indicator of who is ahead in the battle, but the winner is unlikely to be decided until well into the preseason, with game day performances taking on added significance. While Jones effectively lost his job watching two young players compete from the sidelines, it should be expected that the contest will play out rather differently this time around.
And should the Steelers ultimately find themselves in a position where they have two quarterbacks equally capable of being the backup, that will be an enviable position to be in.