LATROBE, Pa. _ With Ben Roethlisberger unavailable again by design, it was quarterback Josh Dobbs’ time to shine.
Dobbs had 1:39 with which to do so, but ultimtely needed just three snaps to put an exclamation point on this afternoon’s practice at Saint Vincent College.
“We’re just creating more opportunities for guys like Mason (Rudolph) and Josh, particularly with that two-minute drill,” head coach Mike Tomlin explained. “We’ve seen Ben in enough two minutes, and he’s going to have an opportunity.
“But particularly as we push into preseason football the guys that could be in position to execute two minutes in week one of the preseason and week two of the preseason are the guys that need the reps.”
Dobbs was tasked with driving the first-team offense (a unit that included Matt Feiler at left guard and Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle) 52 yards for a touchdown in 1:39, with one timeout at his disposal.
He made fast work of a first-team “nickel” defense that included Ola Adeniyi at left outside linebacker, Tyler Matakevich and first-year pro Robert Spillane at inside linebacker, and Kameron Kelly at one of the safety positions.
On first down, Dobbs hit wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for 14 yards.
On the second snap, Dobbs found tight end Vance McDonald for 18 yards.
Then Dobbs went back to Smith-Schuster on a fade, and Smith-Schuster responded with an acrobatic reception despite battling the sideline and tight coverage from cornerback Steve Nelson for a 20-yard touchdown.
“Man, that was good mutual combat,” Tomlin observed.
Smith-Schuster wasn’t open when Dobbs let the ball go, but that wasn’t reason enough not to throw it.
“(Nelson) was right there,” Dobbs acknowledged. “But JuJu, he’s made combat catches ever since he got here. We kinda know that’s a guy, if we can get him 1-on-1 down the field, we know we want to give him a shot to catch the football.”
Take a look at photos from the Pittsburgh Steelers 8th day of training camp
MEDICAL FILE: In addition to Roethlisberger, wide receiver Diontae Johnson, cornerback Artie Burns, inside linebacker Mark Barron, outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and inside linebacker Vince Williams were among those who either didn’t practice or didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills. Tight end Xavier Grimble (undisclosed) didn’t finish practice.
Johnson (hip), Chickillo (hamstring) and Williams (hamstring) had left Friday night’s practice early. Tomlin said he thought all three “could be described as a day-to-day-like variety.”
BEN’S DAY: Roethlisberger wasn’t in uniform for a second consecutive practice, a rarity at training camp, but was on the field. He threw some balls to wide receivers in position drills and in 2-on-2 work against the defensive backs and was engaged with the receivers throughout. Roethlisberger had contributed to the “Friday Night Lights” practice, in part, by swinging a pad at his fellow QBs to help simulate pressure and contact. Roethlisberger wore a compression sleeve on his left leg.
No. 6 IN THE MIX: Rookie quarterback Delvin Hodges of Samford got his first chance to participate in “Seven Shots,” the Steelers practice-opening, short-yardage/two-point conversion drill. Hodges threw for wide receiver Diontae Spencer for what would have been a conversion/score, but Spencer dropped the ball. Next, Hodges hit first-year tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson, but another drop ensued. Finally, Hodges found wide receiver James Washington, who held on. The offense won the drill, 4-3.
EXTRA POINTS: Rudolph’s two-minute drill ended with time running out as a fourth-and-goal completion to Washington was stopped at the 4-yard line. A long connection from Rudolph to Washington was wiped out by a holding penalty on guard Fred Johnson. “That’s a drive killer,” Tomlin offered. Spencer went up in traffic and made a spectacular catch for a 21-yard gain on third-and-20 during the march. Fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry had an 18-yard reception from Rudolph … Nelson jumped a route by wide receiver Tevin Jones for a pick-six on a ball thrown by Rudolph in “Pass Under Pressure” … Jones made a leaping catch of a Dobbs pass along the sideline when working against cornerback Brian Allen … Special teams work included responding to shifts of formation when defending against a place kick.