Third string quarterbacks are the NFL’s Mr. Anonymous. Rick Strom was the Steelers third string quarterback from 1989 to 1993, yet even the most rabid, plugged in, season-ticket holding fan from that era would struggle to remember, let alone recognize him.
Yes, some Super Bowl quarterbacks like Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Stan Humphries and Rich Gannon cut their teeth toiling as third stringers for several seasons, but they’re exceptions.
Which brings us to Joshua Dobbs, the Steelers free agent quarterback whose role, if he were to stay in Pittsburgh, would be as a 3rd string quarterback. Will that happen?
Capsule Profile of Joshua Dobbs’ Career with the Steelers
The Steeler surprised many when they drafted Joshua Dobbs in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Dobbs earned the 3rd string role and while he never suited up, word was he took his preparation and film study seriously.
To the surprise of many, Dobbs’ strong preseason play a year later forced Landry Jones from the team, Mason Rudolph to the virtual reality room as he earned the job of backing up Ben Roethlisberger.
Dobbs saw action twice that year. First in spot duty in Baltimore, where Dobbs audibled out of a play and threw a laser like strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster to convert a 3rd down. He also got the call in the 2nd half in Oakland’s Black Hole against the Raiders and did not look comfortable nor did he play with the same decisiveness.
The Steelers traded him to Jacksonville after their 2019 opening loss to the Patriots, only to see Roethlisberger injured the following week against Seattle. They brought Dobbs back in 2020 where he became the third string quarterback.
- Dobbs saw action in a wildcatish package role in the Steelers closer against the Browns.
The Steelers resigned him in 2021, but Dobbs got injured in the preseason finale and he spent the season on IR, although he was visible on the sidelines talking with Roethlisberger after each series.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Joshua Dobbs
Joshua Dobbs by all accounts is a positive presence in the locker room. He knows the Steelers system and, while the sample size is limited, he brought a new dynamism to the offense during his limited action in 2020. Moreover, that package was likely the brainchild of Matt Canada. Having him around would allow Canada explore his potential more.
Better yet, Dobbs provides a veteran presence at the 3rd string quarterback position for the veteran minimum. Sounds like a win-win for everyone.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Joshua Dobbs
Joshua Dobbs is a class act. His rocket-scientist turned NFL quarterback is the type of story that Hollywood movies are made of. But none of that earns him a roster spot.
By virtue of playing in the Hall of Fame game, the Steelers had 4 preseason games last year. Joshua Dobbs saw plenty of action, and while he didn’t play poorly, he never passed for more than 40 yards.
- The Rocket Scientist has found his ceiling, and that is as a 3rd string quarterback.
The Steelers should use his roster spot and salary cap space on someone with more upside.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Joshua Dobbs
A year ago the pro’s and con’s of resigning Joshua Dobbs were largely the same. Yet, there was an intangible that tipped the scale in Joshua Dobbs favor. The Steelers began the 2021 off season by signing Dwayne Haskins.
In word and deed the Steelers make it clear to Haskins that they weren’t handing the former first round pick anything other than a second chance.
- By bringing Joshua Dobbs back, the Steelers put their money where their mouth was.
That dynamic doesn’t exist today. The conventional wisdom is that the Steelers will either sign a veteran free agent or draft a quarterback to compete with Mason Rudolph for the starting job next summer at St. Vincents. In that context, Dobbs likely role would be as a 4th arm for training camp.
You could do a lot worse than Josha Dobbs for a 4th training camp arm, but the guess here is that Steelers will let Dobbs either follow his NFL dream elsewhere or otherwise being his “Life’s work” as a rocket scientist.
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