It wasn't unusual to see Joshua Dobbs be among the last players off the field following practice last season. And the reason was simple. He knew he could get valuable work then, throwing the ball to any and every receiver willing to catch a few passes.
"Right after the last preseason game, Coach (Mike) Tomlin told me, your reps are going to be cut," said Dobbs. "He told me to make sure I'm getting extra reps after practice. It was something I had already planned on because I had a feeling that was going to be the case. Every day it was just finding somebody to throw with, whether it was working a different route, whether it was working on something in the game plan. It was just finding different ways to continue to grow my game and continue to hone my skills and stay in touch with them."
Dobbs worked with every receiver, it didn't matter if it was a fellow rookie, or the best in the business, everyone was a target for him.
"Anyone who wanted to catch. Someone with hands," said Dobbs. "That's all we need. We're not too picky."
Antonio Brown is a player who has set the standard for working after practice, so he was always someone willing to catch a few more passes. But he wasn't the only one.
"AB was big. He loves to get extra catches in," said Dobbs. "If there was a route or something that he didn't feel good with in practice, he would always stay after and run a couple routes. I threw a lot with J.T. (Justin Thomas), Tuck (Marcus Tucker), Fitz (Fitzgerald Toussaint), and X-man (Xavier Grimble) was always out there. There were a lot of guys who were consistently out there. Then a couple of other guys like Jesse (James) would come and get some routes. Other guys would step in and get some routes and I would get a chance to throw to them."
Dobbs didn't get a single game snap once the preseason came to an end, so the reps he got in practice, and the work he got after practice, was all he had and he valued every one of them.
"Practice reps were game reps, so I loved them," said Dobbs. "Any time you got out there, of course a lot of them would be scout team reps going against the defense. You're trying to show up with the number one defense to go against the starters. They were good reps. You've got to treat them like they're game reps. You're still looking at the play, figuring out the progression from the spot. You go out and you're trying to enact it and complete the ball, make as many completions as you can. Practice reps were crucial. That's the major development that you're getting throughout the year, so you've got to take advantage of those."
**More from Dobbs:
On what he is working on this offseason: **
"Continuing to grow my knowledge of the game. A big part of our offense is the no-huddle, and it's on the quarterback to diagnose the defense and give the team the best look. A big part for me would be to continue to grow my understanding of our playbook so when we get to OTAs, when we get to camp and get in those situations, I'm not just calling a play. I'm calling a play for a purpose, to diagnose and take advantage of something the defense is showing in a pre-snap look. That's the biggest thing I want to work on.
"You're always looking to hone your footwork, shorten your release, make sure your mechanics and fundamentals are intact so you can hit to ground running. But from a football intelligence standpoint, just continue to grow."
On understanding the reason behind the plays as the season wore on:
"When you first get here it's like memorization. You're trying to memorize the playbook as fast as you can so when you get to the practice field you're not thinking as much, you're playing. I can remember my first time hearing the play when you get it on the field. As the season went on you get different reps and two-minute drills and everything, you start to understand the plays more and how we're attacking the defense and what we were looking to do rather than just knowing the route combinations the receivers were running."
On what stood out from the 2017 season:
"The* *opportunity to be a part of a great organization. It's like everything you dreamt of, coming to the NFL, being a part of a great organization. You're on the same team as guys you've been watching play for a long time, whether it's in college, throughout their NFL career. So, it's kind of surreal to be here the first couple weeks. You're kind of just like a fish out of water trying to figure out what to do, but then you start getting a rhythm, start figuring out how to become a professional, figure out what to do with your free time, make sure you're staying engaged and locked in."