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Steelers select QB Dobbs in fourth round

Joe Rutter
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Quarterback Josh Dobbs throws to a receiver during Tennessee NFL Pro Day on Friday, March 31, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Steelers drafted a quarterback Saturday that is viewed as a part of their future, but not necessarily as THE quarterback of the future.

By selecting Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round, the Steelers added another arm to the group behind franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Whether Dobbs one day replaces Roethlisberger under center remains to be seen. Roethlisberger, 35, has three years remaining on his contract, yet is only three months removed from saying he is unsure of how much longer he wants to play.

Landry Jones, re-signed to a two-year contract in March, is the backup. Journeyman Zach Mettenberger also is on the roster, although he hasn’t taken a snap with the Steelers.

“You’re always trying to better yourself in the room regardless of what Ben is doing,” Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said. “Just to throw that out there. Whether he plays five more years, six more years … that’s irrelevant.

“It’s a matter of strengthening the room and finding characteristics that he can bring to the Steelers that we value to make us better.”

At Tennessee, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Dobbs was a multi-dimensional threat, passing for 2,946 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior while also rushing for 831 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was Dobbs’ presence at Tennessee that caused Volunteers quarterback Nathan Peterman to transfer to Pitt.

The Steelers brought him in for a predraft visit April 3, and he is the first quarterback drafted by the team since Jones – also a fourth-rounder – in 2013.

“I’m not trying to replace anyone,” Dobbs said on a conference call with reporters. “I’m trying to be the best Josh Dobbs I can be each and every day. Show up and work and learn as much as I can from a future Hall of Fame quarterback.”

Dobbs was selected with the No. 135 overall pick, the exact spot the Dallas Cowboys picked Dak Prescott last season. Prescott was selected to the Pro Bowl and named the NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Nobody is predicting such immediate success for Dobbs.

“First things first, let’s make our room better in competition,” Fichtner said. “Let’s soak up everything Ben has left in the tank, which he can sponge off and learn. Because the in-helmet perspective that Ben Roethlisberger has at the level he plays at is unbelievable.

“Every quarterback I’ve seen come through here has tried to sponge off that.”

Dobbs arguably is the smartest player in the draft. At Tennessee, his major was aerospace engineering, and he carried a business minor. In 2015, he interned at Pratt & Whitney, working in the F135 engine program for the U.S. Government.

Dobbs said his engineering work should not be viewed as overshadowing his desire to play football.

“I love the game of football. I’ve loved football since the age of the 5. My mom signed me upwhen we were running around in helmets bigger than your body. Football is all I know.

“Of course it’s great to have a backup plan for 15 years down the road when I can’t play football, but until that day I’m giving it all to the sport I love, and I’ll definitely do that each and every day.”

Dobbs has issues with turnovers, especially fumbles, at Tennessee, but Fichtner said the Steelers’ newest quarterback has the arm strength to compete in the NFL.

“It’s very good, strong,” he said. “There aren’t many throws that we would ask him to make that we haven’t seen him do on tape.”

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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