PITTSBURGH – Josh Dobbs is good with numbers.
Look no further than his aerospace engineering degree as proof.
Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback isn’t in the mood to do the math heading into his team’s final preseason game tonight against Carolina.
The Steelers have four quarterbacks under contract. The odds of there being four on the roster when they head to Cleveland to get things going for real on Sept. 9 are slim.
Ben Roethlisberger has the starting job until he doesn’t want it anymore. Landry Jones is a capable backup. The Steelers used a third-round pick on Mason Rudolph in April. That leaves Dobbs – a fourth-round pick in 2017 – as seemingly the one most likely to be elsewhere come September. He insists he’s not worried about the future.
“I think that’s something that you guys (the media) like to play with,” Dobbs said. “But for me I just play football. I can’t control a lot of things. I can control how I approach every day and how I practice and how I play.”
And Dobbs has taken significant strides in his second camp. The game has slowed down and his decision-making has sped up. He’s thrown for a team-high three touchdowns during the preseason while completing 68 percent of his passes.
“Last year (as a rookie) when you break the huddle, you’re trying to figure out your eyes, figure out what you’re trying to do, to make sure you say the play right in the huddle and then get to the line of scrimmage, read, react and play football,” Dobbs said.
“Now you know how each play is trying to attack the defense, where you want to go with the ball and if they give you an obscure look you know how to get your team in good plays.”
Dobbs has also become more patient in letting a play develop instead of just taking off at the first hint of trouble.
“Now when he’s running, he’s running at the right time,” Jones said.
Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t immediately rule out the Steelers holding onto all four quarterbacks past cut-down day Saturday when rosters are pared from 90 to 53.
“You are certainly capable of it,” Tomlin said. “If you look at what happens in the National Football League, it has been done. In today’s NFL, two are probably kept more times than four, so it’s probably less frequent than two at this juncture.”
Cutting Dobbs outright and hoping to stash him on the practice squad seems unlikely. He’s shown enough flashes he would almost certainly be picked up on the waiver wire. The Steelers, who have depth concerns at offensive line and tight end, could also hold on to Dobbs then deal him before the opener.
Dobbs will do his best to drown out the noise and focus on putting what he can on tape that will serve as his resume to hold on to the job he has in Pittsburgh or to find one elsewhere.
“I think I’ve performed well,” he said. “I know that ultimate decision isn’t in my hands ... I’ll (play) however long they want me. I’ll take advantage of all the reps, I tell you that.”
While Dobbs and dozens of other players try to make one last impression in Pittsburgh, newly acquired wide receiver Ryan Switzer will try to make his first.
The Steelers acquired Switzer from Oakland Monday. He arrived in Pittsburgh early Tuesday, practiced that afternoon and Thursday night will find himself returning kicks and possibly even getting in for an offensive snap or two.
“I know the return game is going to be something I can pick up quicker,” Switzer said. “I’m going to try and dive into the offensive playbook and find my niche there.”
The Steelers have no plans to have All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown to return punts, but no heir apparent came to the fore during training camp. Enter Switzer averaged 8.8 yards per punt return while playing for Dallas as a rookie in 2017.
Switzer is well acquainted with Heinz Field. The Charleston, W.Va., native managed to get on the field for a competition as a kid then starred for North Carolina in two trips to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers. He returned nine kicks (seven punts, two kickoffs) for touchdowns for the Tar Heels. After being traded twice in five months, he’s ready for a chance to exhale and just go play.
“Hopefully I can get back to what I was doing in college and things that made me the player that I am,” he said.