By: Bill Washinski
It’s not exactly breaking news to say the Pittsburgh Steelers offense isn’t firing on all cylinders as they prepare to face the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs for the 3rd time on Sunday night.
The low-hanging fruit of the obvious has provided a lot of fodder for the “experts” who are predicting a short playoff run for the Steelers as they weave their narrative of “one good half” on offense over the last month. Predictably, these same pundits simply lumped the final game into the narrative simply because it was a loss, while to anyone with eyes saw the offense had a quality performance and Mason Rudolph outplayed Baker Mayfield.
The root cause of the Steelers offensive problems is due to the worst running game in the league. They haven’t topped 100 yards as a team since Week 6 and Ben Roethlisberger led the NFL in completions/attempts going into Week 17. It’s clear the running game will not be fixed this season with changes coming in the off-season, but there are some things they could try and do to provide a spark. One of which was utilized in the finale, with Josh Dobbs featured in some plays that had a degree of success.
For more on Dobbs’ performance vs. the Browns, the please view the Steeler Nation YouTube channel for film study and analysis:
While unquestionably he has the athleticism and speed that can offer up some potential problems for the opposition, there are legitimate pros and cons to consider. So let’s take a quick look at 5 reasons why Dobbs should/should not, be utilized in the playoffs:
5 REASONS WHY JOSH DOBBS SHOULD PLAY
- He can provide a spark in the running game. To be clear, Dobbs is not going to solve the Steelers problem in the running game. But he can provide an additional element that can catch a team off-balance and be enough to keep a drive alive, or like last Sunday, make a play that helps field position when his gain put the Steelers back into field goal range.
- A precedent has already been set. Just like Roethlisberger, Drew Brees is a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and all-time great. But in recent seasons, Sean Peyton has inserted Taysom Hill on occasion for a spark due to his athletic ability and it has worked for the New Orleans Saints.
- It will force teams to prepare for him. The margin for playoff wins is thin, so any additional factor that can be added helps, including forcing teams to spend practice time to prepare for sets that he might be deployed in. This can even work if he is a decoy on a play.
- It brings the QB sneak back into play. While the defense will likely know that Dobbs is in specifically to run it, unless a team has a secret Troy Polamalu who can time the snap perfectly and jump the pile, Dobbs can get that short yardage play that hasn’t been available this season.
- The more he plays, the more of a threat it can be. Just imagine how Dobbs could bring an Antwaan Randle El gadget play element like the 2005 playoff game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, when Randle El threw it backwards to Roethlisberger who promptly hit Cedric Wilson to put the game out of reach — it would give the Steelers an additional weapon.
5 REASONS WHY JOSH DOBBS SHOULDN’T PLAY
- They haven’t done it all season. The playoffs are not a time to start getting cute or experiment, as you are who you are. It would be one thing if they had already done it earlier in the season, but integrating the concept this late in the run is another.
- It will be predictable. The options you could truly execute with Dobbs are limited and defenses could key on him easier. In addition, there is no exceptional offensive mind like Sean Peyton on our staff that could successfully implement packages that featured Dobbs in a short time.
- It takes another talent off the field. As mentioned in the video, to fully take advantage of Dobbs in a role like this, you need to provide multiple looks. We should not pull Roethlisberger off the field on extended plays and we have far too much talent at WR as it is for Dobbs to take the field in their place either.
- The Emergency QB. The NFL does have a rule where the 3rd QB is the emergency QB. If the emergency QB is used, then the 1st or 2nd QB cannot play until the 4th quarter. While it would likely be moot, as an injury to Roethlisberger would end our run, there exists scenarios where it could backfire.
- It’s the same core that averaged 30 points a game for 10 weeks. While the media is in love with the “what have you done for me lately” narrative, it just took one big play vs. the Indianapolis Colts to open the flood gates and get the Steelers offense in high gear. Most importantly, it carried over into the season finale as Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool all had monster outings despite being targeted and featured less, pretty much debunking the media’s take on the offense.
I personally would suit Dobbs up for this weekend and quite frankly, play it by ear. Depending on how the game goes, if the Steelers have a solid lead, I would be inclined to play him a few snaps in the 2nd half just to get the attention of who we might play next. In any case, the package he would play would be limited and the only situation I would be inclined to utilize him in a close game is with a QB sneak.
However, this debate started on the gameday forum and has continued, as both sides have a legitimate case. Which way do you lead?
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