The most important position battle of 2020 could happen this week for the Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and quarterback Joshua Dobbs (5) Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and quarterback Joshua Dobbs (5) Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with a bit of a Covid-19 issue that has notable star Vince Williams sidelined.

This little Covid-19 issue has sent franchise QB, Ben Roethlisberger, into isolation, forcing the Steelers are to prepare for a divisional game without him. That is not to say he isn’t still the number 1 option. Ben Roethlisberger, even without practicing for a week is still the obvious choice to start, but if he tests positive then Pittsburgh won’t have a choice.

That means that Pittsburgh is going to have to decide whether to prep for having Mason Rudolph, or Josh Dobbs in Week 10. It is no secret that Mason Rudolph had won the primary backup job for the Steelers this season, I think because Dobbs wasn’t there. I highly doubt that Mike Tomlin, Randy Fichtner, and Matt Canada won’t be discussing the play of these two throughout the week before making the decision. Dobbs has already shown his smarts. Even with being the 3rd string quarterback, he is the QB with the clipboard, and for good reason. We all know by now how smart he is. Ben Roethlisberger has already credited Dobbs with a play-call that ended in 6 points for the black and gold.

Josh Dobbs is smart

Dobbs is as close to a genius as any team in the NFL has on their roster. That isn’t a figure of speech. He may not have as good of an arm as Mason Rudolph, but Dobbs has the smarts that could make him an NFL coach at the end of his career in as quick of a fashion as Kellen Moore had with the Dallas Cowboys. This is the same offensive coordinator that had Dallas, led by a 4th string quarterback, moving up and down the field the whole game in Week 9. You very rarely see a 3rd string quarterback at the age of 25 holding the clipboard. That really speaks volumes about his knowledge of the game.

Dobbs hasn’t had much of a chance to start in the NFL but there is no saying that he won’t be a great coach one day regardless of his playing career much to the like of Kellen Moore. Moreso, Pittsburgh doesn’t need a quarterback to throw 45 passes for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns this Sunday. They need a quarterback that can make smart decisions, good reads, and move the chains. If they can keep their defense fresh, and keep the Bengals’ best player in rookie Joe Burrow off the field as much as possible, then Pittsburgh’s defense can win this game for them easily. Dobbs’ mobility would help with moving the chains and then some, and his ability to notice what is a defense is doing is elite.

I personally think that Mason Rudolph does have a better arm. But, with all of the different things, Dobbs’ ability to run can bring to this offense, and Matt Canada bringing all of the pre-snap motion to this offense it could open up a really nice option package, which is what made Tennessee relevant while Dobbs was the quarterback there. More importantly, I trust Dobbs’ ability to read a defense much more than I trust Rudolph’s at this point in their careers.

Dobbs and Rudolph were almost dead even in their ability to pass the ball in the 2019 preseason. Dobbs had started the preseason games oftentimes earlier against better competition, while Rudolph tended to show out against 3rd string players. He did this to the same tune as Devlin Hodges and it gave both of these quarterbacks a roster spot while leaving Pittsburgh comfortable enough to trade away Dobbs for a 5th round pick. It is worth noting that even with similar passing stats, Dobbs did run 4 times for 40 yards in their first preseason matchup and he ran for over 10 yards at a clip multiple times in the preseason.

Dobbs is the better choice

Dobbs didn’t rely on his legs the whole time, but his ability to move is what had me giving him the edge over Rudolph when they both had similar passing performances in that preseason. Their matchups against the Titans and the Cheifs in the preseason were the only games in which Rudolph held a higher completion percentage by more than 4%. It was clear that Rudolph was getting more chances than Dobbs with Mason tallying 44 pass attempts through those 4 weeks compared to Dobbs’ 33. Even with fewer pass attempts, there was only 1 preseason game in which Rudolph tallied more total yards than Dobbs. In that game, Dobbs had only 5 pass attempts and 1 rushing attempt. Dobbs would be more successful in moving the chains than Rudolph would be and that isn’t really debatable. This is especially true, considering that Rudolph seemed to have gotten worse after his concussion in the first matchup against the Ravens in 2019. If Rudolph got worse, and Dobbs even stayed the same then Dobbs is the better choice for two games.

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I am by no means saying that Dobbs should definitely start this Sunday if Ben tests positive for Covid-19. However, the most important position battle this season could be taking place leading into Week 10. Especially since, if Ben tests positive, he will be sidelined for next week’s game as well. The Steelers’ coaching staff will have a lot to talk about this week if they want to keep their number 1 seed and the only playoff bye in the AFC.