“Josh is going to start. They told us that this morning,” said Rudolph in the locker room after practice. “We will split up the first half as evenly as we can. (Devlin) will play the second half.”
The quote from Mason Rudolph stunned me and other Pittsburgh Steelers fans. I have made no bones about being in rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges camp since I did a bio on him. Steelers fans have seen two preseasons and a dozen regular season passes to make up their minds what Joshua Dobbs brings to the table. Many fans believe that he has shown no progress since being drafted in the fourth round in 2017. So why not give Hodges or even Mason Rudolph, the projected No. 2 quarterback, quality reps in the fourth and last preseason game? Tomlin could be trying to drum up a trade market or kick his tires one last time or telling Steelers fans that Dobbs has a future with the organization and he is being rewarded with playing elevated competition.
Hodges, the former Samford quarterback has played mainly against fringe NFL players or camp bodies in his two preseason games. So far this preseason, the all-time NCAA FCS passing leader, has a 55.6 percent completion rate. That is not good, is it? Stats lie and do not tell the whole story. The completion percentage is being dragged down by at least four or five dropped passes. Another four completions would have given the 2009 Junior World Duck Calling Contest winner, 14 completions in 18 attempts. (78 percent) One item to note is of the six drives Hodges was in on, Pittsburgh had two touchdowns, one field goal and two punts. The other series ended on a fumble.
Should Rudolph get extended playing time if he is the true #2 behind Roethlisberger? For me, that answer is yes. Big Ben has been durable the last few years, but that has not always been the case. Rudolph should get meaningful reps against meaningful players. That being said, just like the Steelers, the Panthers will probably not play starters and going with second-stringers to begin the game. It is doubtful any will be in the game when Rudolph takes the field in the second quarter. Will some second-stringers still be in the game when Rudolph takes the field or even third stringers or will the players be updating their resumes?
Hodges did not get into the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, but Dobbs came in right after halftime. By this time, the Titans had their string cornerbacks in the game, (Ourlads depth chart.) and his last pass was completed with fourth-string cornerback, Michael Jordan in coverage. The Titans game was more of what we saw throughout the preseason. High inaccurate passes and stalled drives. Dobbs has been in on 10 drives that have resulted in two field goals and two interceptions. Neither of those two scoring drives came against NFL starters or second-stringers.
Is Dobbs getting the nod in hopes of a stellar game and Pittsburgh get a tasty draft pick for him? At the end of August/early September, five quarterbacks have been traded. Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron, Brett Hundley, and Jacoby Brissett all with starting experience. Is Dobbs better than those quarterbacks before they were traded? I will let you all debate in the comments section below. What real value does a quarterback with six NFL completions have in the NFL? How many teams carry three quarterbacks? Do any NFL teams even view Dobbs as a second or third-stringer? Steelers fans are connecting the dots between the team and the Indianapolis Colts but are Colts even interested? With the Colts sniffing around Brock Osweiler, could that be a signal that the team is interested in a veteran quarterback?
In the two games Hodges has played in, have you thought he was out of his element? He has been relegated to playing against camp bodies mostly. How many times did you think he just looked like a camp arm? Steelers fans just wanted to see what Hodges could do against better competition instead of shining against poor competition. For me, I have seen all I need to see out of Dobbs. I have not seen a signal-caller progressing. Do other teams view Dobbs in the same light and would not even part with a seventh-rounder?
Whatever the reasoning behind the quarterback pecking order, I am disappointed and I am not the only one. However, the game against Carolina plays out, I will be glued to the TV watching all three quarterbacks and cheering each one on. I will cheer on the man fans call “Duck”, more.