Josh Dobbs, Mason Rudolph look to build on Steelers preseason opener
The previous time Josh Dobbs took a snap in a game, he directed a last-minute touchdown drive, running into the end zone from a yard out with two seconds left to give the Steelers a win over the Carolina Panthers.
That was nearly 12 months ago.
“It feels like it had been so long since I had been out there,” Dobbs said Thursday night after the Steelers opened preseason play with a 31-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. “It feels like forever since that Panthers game.”
As he began his second preseason with the Steelers, Dobbs showed he’s not just going to hand over his roster spot to third-round draft pick Mason Rudolph. The second quarterback to take the field for the Steelers in the opener, Dobbs led the offense on a pair of touchdown drives and expertly ran the two-minute offense at the end of the first half.
Dobbs completed 9 of 13 passes for 91 yards that included a 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Damoun Patterson. He was intercepted once and did not get sacked.
“I felt like it went well,” Dobbs said. “I moved the ball up and down the field successfully and was able to get into a rhythm with the offense.”
Rudolph replaced Dobbs to start the second half and played the final 30 minutes. He led drives of nine and 10 plays that resulted in Chris Boswell field goals. Boswell’s other field goal came when the Steelers took possession at the Eagles 16 after a fumble recovery.
Rudolph completed 7 of 12 passes for 101 yards. He was sacked twice and botched one exchange with the center.
“I need to clean that up,” Rudolph said. “I still had a lot of clean plays, checked it down when I needed to pushed the ball down the field.”
All in all, coach Mike Tomlin liked how his young quarterbacks competed against the scaled-down version of the defending Super Bowl champs.
“I did,” he said. “Largely, they did a good job of taking care of the ball. And that’s important. The communication, getting people lined up, I think maybe we only burned one timeout over the course of the game. So those are some of the things that you look for in the first time out. … I thought they represented themselves well.”
Each quarterback had a defining play in the game. Dobbs atoned for an interception he threw on a pass intended for Patterson by hitting the undrafted free agent receiver in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Patterson made a lunging, twisting catch while beating cornerback Rasul Douglas in coverage. The play capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive inside the final two minutes of the half.
One series earlier, Dobbs had forced a pass to Patterson along the left sideline. Douglas stepped in front for an interception.
“I needed to put the ball more on the sideline where (Patterson) could catch it,” Dobbs said. “On the touchdown, he did a good job of stepping on the defender’s toes, getting inside of him where I was able to put it for him to catch it.”
Rudolph took advantage of a free play when an Eagles player jumped offsides. He heaved a pass toward the sideline, and rookie second-rounder James Washington outjumped former Pitt corner Avonte Maddox for a 35-yard reception.
It contributed to a satisfying half of football for Rudolph in his first professional game. The next test comes on Thursday in Green Bay.
“I think as far as my development, I’ve taken a lot of steps forward,” he said about his first two weeks in training camp. “Being a lot more comfortable in center after not doing that for eight years in high school and college. I feel a lot more comfortable there.
“It’s just learning my teammates, getting the timing right and I’m looking forward to getting back to practice, watching the tape and getting better.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.