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Open Mike: Tomlin Elaborates on QBs, Kickers Ahead of First Preseason Game

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UNITY TWP, Pa. – As Ben Roethlisberger rests, Josh Dobbs will start Friday night when the Steelers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to open the preseason, Mike Tomlin confirmed Wednesday during his first preseason press conference.

Dobbs will start in place of Roethlisberger, while Mason Rudolph, who has been battling with Dobbs for the No. 2 quarterback position, is also expected to play a significant amount of time.

“We’ll continue to harden up some of our rotations in terms of who’s playing with and in what groups,” said Tomlin. “We’re working some two-minute football, getting the quarterbacks that could potentially be in the game, ready.”

Tomlin would not commit to playing undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, but did offer some praise for the former FCS star.

“The moments out here haven’t been too big for him,” he said. “Obviously, the confines of a stadium are different. We’d like to get him some play, and we’ll see how the flow of the game goes. We’re working with the intention of doing that, but sometimes the game unfolds differently once you get inside stadiums.

“Those are the intentions. He’s been deserving of the opportunity. He’ll get it this weekend or the next.”

Speaking of position battles, Tomlin also elaborated on the Steelers’ plan for their placekicking situation. Both incumbents – Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry – will be sharing the load Friday night.

The training camp kicking competition between Boswell and rookie Matthew Wright will continue into Friday, as Tomlin confirmed the pair will alternate placekicking duties against Tampa with equal opportunity to pull ahead in the race.

Berry will split punts with newcomer Ian Berryman, as well.

Boswell is coming off the worst season of his career in 2018, where he missed on 12 attempts – five of which were PATs – and ended with a 65% completion rate. He has been better in camp, but will need to adjust to the tricky kicking confines of Heinz Field.

“He has been solid, but we haven’t done anything yet,” said Tomlin. “We’re stepping into the stadium for the first time. That’s exciting. We’ve put him into some situations out here, but we’re just beginning to unfold the storyline of the consistency there, not only for him but for all of those guys.”

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Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20

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While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.

Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.

Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start

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To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.

He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.

The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.

“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”

Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.

“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”

All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.

His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.

Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.

Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.

“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”

If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.

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Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/23/20

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David DeCastro practices with the Steelers after missing the first two games of the season. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin explained to the media, including Mike Asti and Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, that he is evaluating DeCastro and he could start their week 3 game against Houston.

Joe Haden can also seen working on one-on-one coverage drills with the rest of the secondary.

Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers

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