LATROBE, Pa. – When the Steelers used their fourth-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft on quarterback Joshua Dobbs, there was no expectation of him having to play early. After all, Ben Roethlisberger was coming off a 2016 season in which he passed for 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns in 14 regular season starts, and the Steelers recently had signed veteran backup Landry Jones to a two-year contract a month earlier.
But as often happens in professional sports, circumstances intervened, and so it will be that Dobbs will start the Steelers' preseason opener on Friday against the New York Football Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The starting nod goes to Dobbs, because Coach Mike Tomlin said today that both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will not play against the Giants. And with Jones still nursing an abdominal injury that has prevented him from practicing for several days, the "next man up" is Dobbs.
"Our approach is going to be simple. Those who are healthy will play. Aside from Ben and Antonio, those who are healthy will play," said Tomlin. "The guys who have missed time for a variety of reasons, there's no need to declare them out at this juncture. We're going to give everybody an opportunity to gain a certain level of health and then make judgments as to the availability of some of those guys."
Even though Tomlin said that players unable to participate in today's practice wouldn't necessarily be ruled out of the game against the Giants, the decision has been made on a starting quarterback.
"Josh Dobbs is getting an opportunity to start at quarterback for us," said Tomlin. "One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. Landry has been dealing with injuries, which gives Josh an opportunity to start the game. He's excited about it, and I know I'm excited about watching him play the quarterback position with that group and lead us in that way."
Dobbs started 35 games at Tennessee, and he was 23-12 in those starts, and he left there ranked among the school's all-time leading passers in several statistical categories, as well as holding onto a degree in aerospace engineering.
"He's a bright-eyed willing worker," said Tomlin about Dobbs. "He appears to learn from mistakes, and I thinks that's good. He also appears to be able to learn from the mistakes of others, and that's doubly good. Like a lot of things, we won't know until we get into a stadium. At that position, you're defined by how you perform under certain circumstances, and it'll be good to get him in that stadium on Friday night and watch him in terms of putting his skills on display.
"This is just the first time out. I'm interested in his game day demeanor, his ability to communicate through circumstances, not only with his fellow players but with his coaches as well."