Ben Roethlisberger enters his sixteenth season as the lightning rod of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. How Big Ben plays dictates the chances the Steelers succeed or fail. Who carries the clipboard in the regular season and who runs the scout team in practice is where the talk heats up between Steelers fans. Could a virtual unknown quarterback with gigantic college stats stick his nose in and create even more controversy?
Coming off his first 5,000-yard season the 37-year-old veteran looks to duplicate the 2018 season, except his league-leading 16 interceptions. But what if injury befalls the former Miami of Ohio alum? The waters get muddied when the discussion turns in this direction with experts and fans taking multiple positions countering each other.
In 2017, Pittsburgh drafted Joshua Dobbs. Speculation ran rampant on if the former Tennessee Volunteers was going to be groomed as a backup or seen as the heir apparent to Big Ben. Most of the speculation ended when Pittsburgh drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round in 2018 and Dobbs face planted against the Oakland Raiders in Week 14. Taking over for an injured Roethlisberger, Dobbs was ineffective on four second-half drives which resulted in an interception, three first downs, and zero points while completing just four of nine passes.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert touted having a first-round grade on Rudolph prior to moving up in the 2018 draft to snare the 6-5 235-pound signal caller. The former Oklahoma State Cowboys star did not supplant Dobbs for the backup position with a poor preseason showing. Rudolph looks to improve during 2019 with what he learned running the scout team in practices hoping to pass Dobbs on the depth chart and improving on his 54.5 percent completion rate last preseason.
While the battle will generate a lot of media and fan coverage during training camp and preseason, do not count out undrafted rookie free agent Devlin Hodges. While playing at Samford, the former four-year starter set the FCS record for passing yards (14,584). While seamlessly transitioning from a small school to the NFL is highly unlikely, his competitors have not lit the world on fire either. Will the coaching staff relegate him to limited snaps in camp and the preseason to see Dobbs’ and Rudolph’s progress? (Hodges bio.)
Roethlisberger while entrenched as the starter heading into his 16th season is never in doubt. What is in doubt will he remain healthy all season or will one backup be called upon again? Rudolph should be the first quarterback off the bench in camp and presason to supplant Dobbs for the backup quarterback position. Dobbs is given every opportunity to compete and sees a generous number of snaps so Hodges rarely sees the field until the fourth preseason game. But he shines in his limited time against weak competition and becomes the first quarterback in recent memory to secure a position on the team’s practice squad.
QB1 — Roethlisberger
QB2 — Rudolph
QB3 — Dobbs