Josh Dobbs came into the season as the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback and got the start in the Steelers’ 30-28 win over the Buccaneers. He finished with five completions on eight attempts for 84 yards, as well as leading the Steelers in rushing with two carries for 44 yards.
He didn’t finish a drive with a touchdown, but he did move the ball for the Steelers and combine his athleticism with multiple good throws down the field. Let’s take a closer look at his night:
Since Dobbs’ first training camp with the Steelers in 2017, Mike Tomlin has made a point during situational scrimmage drills to force Dobbs to win with his arm on plays instead of his legs. At first it was a frustrating challenge for Dobbs, but in his third year he’s shown he’s comfortable with the playbook and his presence as a quarterback to not rely on his legs as much.
That doesn’t mean Tomlin doesn’t want to see him running to get first downs. He just wants there to be a balance, and Dobbs showed that balance against the Buccaneers.
His first run didn’t come until a third-and-eight play in the second quarter. Dobbs dropped back out of the shotgun, saw the Buccaneers’ four-man stunt blitz open a huge hole and took advantage:
What’s impressive about this play is that he wasn’t looking to run, but he felt his opportunity open and capitalized on a key down while still sliding to protect himself after moving the chains.
“I’ve always liked his prudent use of agility and escapability,” Tomlin said to me in the postgame press conference. “It’s been an asset to him in the past and it was an asset to him tonight. But the key is the prudent use of it, and he did a nice job.”
Dobbs’ best run came just a few plays later on a third-and-nine play when his primary and secondary reads were well covered. Dobbs noticed linebacker Shaquil Barrett overrun his edge blitz and get pushed behind the pocket by right tackle Zach Banner, opening up the space for Dobbs to exploit the defense which was spread out due to their man coverage. The result was a 36-yard gain, the Steelers’ third longest play of the game:
I asked Dobbs about his performance and how it felt being able to run the ball and keep the drive alive after how Tomlin had put pressure on him to win with his arm in practice. The bottom line for him is to just make plays.
“Sometimes [running] is discouraged, but at the end of the day we just have to go out and make plays,” Dobbs said. “Whether it’s with your arm or your legs, just go out there and play football. They get to hit you, you get to run from them, that’s just part of the game. Being able to make plays with both my arms and legs tonight was a blast. We were able to move the ball, so these were great stepping stones for the next time we get a chance.”
Dobbs did move the ball in the only two drives he played and both represented the worst starting field position for the Steelers’ offense in the game. The first drive he moved the ball 40 yards after being backed inside his own ten, thanks largely to a 43-yard bomb to James Washington that our Dale Lolley mentioned in his ten thoughts on the game.
But the most impressive throw on Dobbs’ night was a conversion of a third-and-21 on his second drive. He dropped back in the shotgun against a zone defense and pump faked to manipulate linebacker Devin White away from the middle of the field so he could hit Washington for a 22-yard completion:
Considering Dobbs was up against the Buccaneers’ first team defense that included high draft pick defenders like cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and White, his composure and execution in those two drives were a good start to his preseason.
Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges also had good performances, but Dobbs’ balance as a runner and a passer could be the separator that gives him an edge as the Steelers’ preseason continues.
What’s most important for Dobbs moving forward is to maximize the threat he poses to a defense with both his skills as a runner and a passer. Doing so could open up more opportunities if he compounds his successes, as opponents will have to account for both abilities.
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