It happens every year, that guys who survive the summer's final cut-down to earn a spot on the initial 53-man roster find themselves on the outside looking in by the time it comes to place the ball on the tee for the regular season opener.
The Steelers made three roster moves in the 48 hours following Saturday's mandatory cut-down to 53 players, and Coach Mike Tomlin explained why they did during his news conference today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"Besides the 53-man cut-down, we've had a number of significant adds and acquisitions in recent days," said Tomlin. "We're excited about those. We believe those add depth and competition to us in terms of rounding out our roster. Many of the guys we have some familiarity with and are excited about.
"It's exciting to have Josh Dobbs back in the fold," added Tomlin. "We like Josh, he's an intelligent guy. His prudent use of mobility is an asset to him. Particularly at the No. 3 quarterback position where you don't get a lot of practice reps, physical reps in terms of preparation, it's good to have a trait that gives you a winning edge. His mobility and prudent use of it has proven to be an asset to him in those circumstances, and that's one of the reasons we're excited about reacquiring him."
While the Steelers consistently have been a three-quarterback team during the Colbert-Tomlin era, they never have been a team to open a season by carrying a quarterback on the practice squad. In this they have been consistent – three quarterbacks on the active roster, none on the practice squad.
In 2020, the Steelers again had three quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, and the acquisition of Dobbs didn't change that. But because of the unique circumstances created by the global pandemic, they will carry a fourth quarterback on the practice squad.
"We just felt like it was important for us in this circumstance to have four quarterbacks in the program," said Tomlin about the decision to add Devlin Hodges to the practice squad after he cleared waivers to create a roster spot for Dobbs. "We have four quarterbacks in the program, guys we have played ball with in the past, and we believe that aides us. Hodges being in the position he's in being a practice squad guy, he is someone who started games for us a year ago, and we believe that's as asset to us. In this COVID environment you can't insulate yourself enough with quality depth at all positions. That's something we worked extremely hard to do, and the utilization of vested veterans on the practice squad is another avenue that we thoughtfully delved into, all in an effort to insulate us and to fortify depth in this uncertain environment."
Curtis Riley, a fifth-year pro from Fresno State who was signed as a street free agent about a week into training camp to add to the team's lack of depth at safety, is an example of a vested veteran who will open the season on the Steelers' practice squad. After being impressive enough during training camp to earn a spot on the initial 53-man roster, he ended up losing his spot there to Sean Davis, who was signed by the Steelers after being released by Washington. Davis, a second round pick by the Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft, played both strong safety and free safety in Pittsburgh before leaving as an unrestricted free agent on March 23.
"We were able to get Sean Davis back," said Tomlin. "And forget safety, Sean Davis has been a guy over the course of his career with us who has been a quality punt team player, a quality kickoff team player, and those are the first things we thought about when we had an opportunity to reacquire him. The instant help he can provide us as a guy who spent a lot of time as a core special teams player for us in his youth, but also as a guy who is familiar with our schemes and capable of playing both safety positions and adding starter capable depth."
And while it was believed the Steelers might look for a young replacement on the waiver wire for punter Jordan Berry, the team took the opposite approach in signing 15-year veteran Dustin Colquitt on Monday.
"We were able to pick up Dustin Colquitt on Monday," said Tomlin. "Colquitt is a guy who has been around forever. We've had some significant competition against him over the course of 15 years or so. He was in Kansas City, and we have a great deal of respect for his resume. Really excited about his floor. As a 15-year veteran, a guy who has seen a lot of circumstances, been in a lot of circumstances, we have a great deal of comfort in his ability to deliver in a variety of circumstances and unusual environments. He's a seasoned and savvy holder, and that's going to be an asset to Chris Boswell.
"We're excited about acquiring those guys and quickly getting those guys up to speed, and I say quickly because, particularly as it pertains to Josh and Sean Davis, it's reasonable to expect those guys to be game ready for us quicker than those guys who haven't had a lot of exposure to our football."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"We didn't work David (DeCastro) yesterday on the bonus day. We'll see what tomorrow holds as we begin our preparation week. I know he's excited about getting back out there with his teammates as soon as possible."
Because the Steelers play on Monday night, the team isn't required to submit its first practice report of the week to the league office until Thursday.