Thursday night will be the final opportunity for some young players to state a case for their spot on the Steelers 53-man roster, and the battle to earn a backup spot at some positions will be front and center, including at quarterback.
Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph have been competing since the team began OTAs in May for the role as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, and Thursday’s game against the Carolina Panthers will be one last shot for one of them to grab the reins.
Dobbs, Rudolph and Devlin Hodges will all play against Carolina, while Roethlisberger will not see any game action. After practice the players revealed who will start and how it will all play out.
“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.”
It was Dobbs’ performance against Carolina in the final preseason game in 2018 that prompted the Steelers to release veteran Landry Jones and earned Dobbs the No. 2 quarterback job.
“They really took advantage of this game 12 months ago and stated a case for the division of labor that became our group in 2018 at that position,” said Coach Mike Tomlin of Dobbs and Rudolph.
Dobbs knows the importance of this final preseason game, but he won’t treat it any differently than other games.
“It’s a big opportunity for me,” said Dobbs. “It’s a big opportunity because it’s the next opportunity to go out and play football, show how you can lead an offense, lead the team, your play-making ability in the pocket and running the show. The last preseason game. We know what happened last year.
“For me it’s a big opportunity because it’s the next game. I am excited to go out there and compete with my teammates, lead the show and hopefully put a lot of points on the scoreboard.”
Rudolph, who will have about 10-15 friends and family members at the game on Thursday night since it’s close to home, said getting just a few series in each of the preseason games can be challenging, but he also knows how important it is to take advantage of every snap.
“It’s always tough when you know you are going into the game and you know you’re not playing the whole thing,” said Rudolph. “In college you are just trying to win. That is all that is on your mind. Now you know you have to play good my allotted two series.
“I just love playing football and having these four opportunities in the preseason is the only guaranteed time you are going to get because we have Ben as our starter. It’s just one more opportunity to score some points and move the ball up the field.”
And it’s one more opportunity for one of them to emerge as the No. 2 quarterback.
“There is a battle at every position,” said Rudolph. “Whether there is a set in stone starter, everyone is competing. We encourage an environment filled with competition.”