Tennessee football: Ben Roethlisberger retirement gives Josh Dobbs a chance to start

It’s ambitious, but the door is wide open now for former Tennessee football quarterback Joshua Dobbs. After five years in the NFL as a backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars, he may be about to enter his first quarterback competition ever.

Dobbs was drafted in the fourth round by the Steelers in 2017. He was a backup there until 2019, mostly serving as the third-string quarterback behind Mason Rudolph. During the 2019 season, he joined the Jags, but he rejoined Pittsburgh in 2020.

This past year, Dobbs was placed on injured reserve before the season started, so Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins were the two backups to Ben Roethlisberger. However, on Thursday, Big Ben announced his retirement, opening the door for all these guys.

Sure, Rudolph and Haskins have more starting experience than Dobbs. However, neither has worked out in those starts. Rudolph is 5-4-1 as a starter and just this past year tied the Detroit Lions, the worst team in the league with his only start. Haskins was 3-10 as a starter with the Washington Football team over two years.

Beyond their records, though, their stats make it worse. Rudolph is averaging barely over six yards per attempt and averaged less than five yards an attempt this past year. Haskins has more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.

To be fair, Dobbs’ stats across the board are technically worse than both, but he has only appeared in six games over his career with no starts and has only been allowed to throw the ball 17 times, so Mike Tomlin has never really turned him loose. Nobody should judge what he’s done with that small a sample size.

Although he was only on a one-year contract in Pittsburgh, they brought him back from Jacksonville, so you have to think that there’s something they like about him. He also showed in college how he could develop over time.

In 2013, Dobbs didn’t make the trip to Gainesville against the Florida Gators. Later that year, he was starting, but he was awful, resulting in Tennessee football going 1-3 down the stretch. Midway through the next year, though, he became the starter again, and in his first start, he scored five total touchdowns against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

From then on, Dobbs was the full-time starter, leading the Vols to what remain their only two top 25 finishes in the post-Phillip Fulmer era in 2015 and 2016, and that 2016 season saw him put up the most productive overall offensive numbers for a UT quarterback since Peyton Manning. Vol fans didn’t see production near that again until Hendon Hooker this past year.

Anyway, taking all this into account, there’s no doubt Pittsburgh will give Dobbs a fair shot. After all, they pick late in the draft, and outside of Kenney Pickett and Matt Corral, there are no standout prospects in this NFL Draft. As a result, don’t count out Dobbs’ potential to shock the world and become another Tennessee football starting quarterback in the pros next year.