Slated to Start Friday, Dobbs Ready to ‘Enjoy and Dominate’

Steelers backup QB has maintained role despite push from Rudolph

Josh Rowntree
August 07, 2019 - 5:56 pm

Josh Dobbs has held off off Mason Rudolph. So far.

Dobbs will be the starting quarterback Friday night when the Steelers host the Tampa Bay Bucs at Heinz Field for the team’s preseason opener. 

A year ago, Dobbs not only edged out backup Landry Jones for a spot on the team, but also won the backup job over Rudolph, who will get time Friday night, according to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. 

“My goal has just been to prove every day that I’ve found something to focus on while you’re on the practice field,” Dobbs said.

He and Rudolph are in the midst of an intense competition to play behind starter Ben Roethlisberger. When the 16-year veteran does not participate in practice, as has been the case a couple of times in the last week, Pittsburgh’s coaching staff informs the two younger passers who will run with which unit at the last minute.

“We find out like right before the play because you don’t want to script reading (the defense),” Dobbs said. “In game, you don’t know what play is going to come and you have to be ready to execute the entire offense.”

Early in camp, Dobbs struggled. The turnover rate for him has been higher than he would like throughout. That said, he’s also made plays and has more familiarity with the offense and the receiver group, given the extra year under his belt. 

“It’s tight because of Mason’s growth,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said. “It’s not tight because of the experience that Josh has, in general. But they know it’s open and we’re going to keep an open mind about it. We haven’t tried to evaluate day-to-day. We’re going to try to see how this thing pans out and, really, I don’t think you can do that until you get into the preseason games.”

To this point, Fichtner has not seen much separation between the two. But there have been days where Dobbs has looked the part of a reliable backup.

On Saturday, for instance, Dobbs worked with the first team during a two-minute drill. He completed all three passes, including a perfect, over-the-shoulder fade pattern throw to tight end Vance McDonald and a well-placed touchdowns strike to receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Rudolph, meanwhile, led a second-team offense that stalled without scoring.

“It’s still practice and I like what I see out of them,” Fichtner said. “We’ve had the ebb and flow, we’ve good one day and one’s been better than the other. That’s kind of gone back and forth. They know it, they feel it and we see it.”

A year ago, Dobbs was the backup for all 16 regular season games. He completed 6-of-12 passes for 43 yards and threw one interception while filling in when Roethlisberger went down with injury.

It is now, however, a new year. The competition in Rudolph has taken a step up and Dobbs, starting Friday, needs to respond if he wants to keep the job.

“It’s just excitement,” he said of Friday’s opener. “You get to go out and play football, you get to go out and compete. You only get a certain amount of opportunities to go out and do this. We’re not playing Steelers on Steelers, you get a chance to be in the stadium playing against other teams.

“I can’t wait to get out there and compete, play with my teammates, play against a different color and just go out, enjoy the game and dominate.”

Hear more from Josh Dobbs below.

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