Familiar faces help the Steelers reload for 2020 regular season
By now I’m sure you heard the news of the Steelers trimming their roster down to 53 players. You may have also heard that two players on the roster to start the 2019 season, who were not on the roster during this summer’s training camp, were also brought back: safety Sean Davis and quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
In order to accommodate the transactions, the team released QB Devlin Hodges and S Curtis Riley. Riley was one of fourteen players the Steelers signed on Sunday to their practice squad. A total of sixteen players are permitted, with the thought being that Hodges rejoins the team after passing through waivers.
The bottom end of the roster is always volatile, and anything but secure for those players who may be released to make room for injuries or improvements in other areas.
That is especially true this year as COVID-19 changed the landscape of the NFL. Without preseason games and the ability to see tape on different players, long are the days where Mike Tomlin and his staff could pluck an Alejandro Villanueva from the street after seeing them a few short weeks earlier from across the field and during film sessions.
That’s how two these two Steelers, Davis and Dobbs, found their way back to the Steel City.
Sean Davis, the team’s second round draft choice in 2016, left via free agency when a cash-strapped Steelers permitted him to seek greener pastures – including more money and a potential starting role. Davis, who was placed on IR following Week 2 of last season, was the odd man out after the team traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick and had already placed 2018 first rounder Terrell Edmunds into the other starting safety position.
Davis signed with Washington in the offseason before his released at the end of camp, and will thus be paid $2 million (guaranteed) while returning to the team that drafted him in Pittsburgh.
Joshua Dobbs is interesting case study. Once winning the backup position behind Ben Roethlisberger, Dobbs lost his job in a camp battle to Mason Rudolph last summer and then became expendable when the “camp arm”, Duck Hodges, opened eyes at the same time.
Dobbs had initially won his spot behind Big Ben in 2018, bumping incumbent Landry Jones off of the roster after leading six different scoring drives in four preseason games. His leadership skills were always there, but his decisiveness waned in last year’s preseason and after one week, the Steelers dealt him in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a fifth-round pick (traded to Miami in a package for Fitzpatrick a week later).
Interestingly enough, he boomerangs back to the Steelers off of waivers – meaning, he’s still tied to the same contract Pittsburgh traded to Jacksonville last season. Dobbs enters his fourth and final season on said rookie contract, but also offers a lot to locker room.
We’ve all heard the book smarts of a legit “rocket scientist” when referring to Dobbs and that is something which will prove invaluable in film sessions, on the sidelines, and of course, as part of practices – where Dobbs also offers a different style of playing the quarterback position for scouting upcoming opponents.
Davis also offers tremendous value for the Steelers defense, having played nickel corner, free and strong safety in his four years with the team prior to leaving this offseason. Despite his spot being taken, there wasn’t any proven depth behind the starters at safety, where Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield and offseason acquisition Curtis Riley were all vying for roster spots.
Davis offers an immediate upgrade, having started 40 games and in his first three seasons, and having played all but one during that time span. An injury cost him an opportunity to play in Week 1 in 2019 and his only appearance was in Week 2.
Now he returns healthy and with little pressure as he’s assumed to work into subpackages with multiple defensive backs.
In fact, looking at the Steelers defense overall, the secondary looks scary when Davis can be used to allow Edmunds or Fitzpatrick to play more freely.
As for the quarterbacks, how many other teams can boast of having four passers (with the assumed re-signing of Hodges to the practice squad) who all have experience playing in the regular season with the same team? I’m unsure there’s many, if any, at all.
These shrewd moves help solidify an already solid Steelers depth chart which now boasts an incredible amount of depth from the active 53-man roster all the way through their practice squad.