‘Astro’ Dobbs Highlights Day 3 PITTSBURGH — Don’t call Joshua Dobbs an astronaut.
The newest quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers is an aerospace engineer, and he’ll tell you all about the F-135 engine.
“The most technologically advanced engine ever created,” he said with his voice rising in enthusiasm.
But there’s one thing the guy Tennessee teammates nicknamed “Astro” won’t be doing: He won’t be flying to Mars.
“I want to design and build airplanes,” Dobbs said at the NFL Combine. “I know you get the connotation of me being an astronaut. It’s the first thing people think. But it’s more about the designing and build side, so I’m going to play football as long as I possibly can until I can’t play anymore and then go pursue off the field stuff.”
Dobbs is the brainy, strong-armed quarterback the Steelers drafted in the fourth round Saturday out of Tennessee. He hopes to one day begin working a job of importance, but he’s playing football now because he loves it that much.
Dobbs said he needs another 15 years or so before he gets on with his life’s work, which would make him the long-term heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers QB Coach Randy Fichtner applied the brakes to that kind of talk.
“First things first,” Fichtner said. “Let’s make our room better in competition. Let’s soak up everything Ben has left in the tank. … I would be shocked if Josh isn’t already thinking about that.”
There’s no doubting that Dobbs will be the smartest guy in that, or probably any, room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. But playing quarterback isn’t about balancing calculus equations. And to that end, Dobbs checks some boxes:
* Completed 61.5 percent of his passes at Tennessee, and, according to Optimum Scouting, Dobbs had the highest completion percentage (55.4) of this year’s QB prospects while under pressure.
* Strong arm with good zip. “Very good, very good, strong, very good,” said Fichtner.
* Intelligence, as previously noted. Dobbs graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering.
* Mobility. He ran his Combine 40 in 4.64 after rushing for 2,160 yards at Tennessee.
* Experience, with 35 starts (22-13 record) after beating out (and forcing the transfer of) Nathan Peterman.
The knocks on Dobbs are his footwork and his 30 career fumbles, which Fichtner blamed on running the Tennessee spread option so often.
Of course, the pick wasn’t made with the intention of Dobbs becoming Roethlisberger’s heir apparent. Quality backups appearing in brief stints can be the difference in making the playoffs or not.
“Regardless of what Ben Roethlisberger is doing,” Fichtner said, “whether he plays five more years, six more years — I tease him all the time saying we have to go eight — that’s irrelevant. It’s a matter of strengthening the room, finding some characteristics that he can bring to the Steelers that we value to make us better. I think our room just gets competitive. That’s always a good thing.”
Fichtner liked what he saw in Dobbs’ fourth-quarter performances and also appreciates his new quarterback’s passion for the game.
“This a very sharp young man who loves football. That is unique,” Fichtner said. “To be as sharp as he is, to be as accomplished as he is, and this is what he chose to do. I am excited about that as we move forward.”
Why does Dobbs play football?
“I love the game of football,” said Dobbs. “I have loved it since I played it when I was five. My mom signed me up at five years old, when we were running around in helmets bigger than your body. Football is all I know. Going to college, I could have played football or baseball, but I chose football because that was the sport I couldn’t see myself not playing. I love the game. I give it all, every time I step onto the field. 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 am giving it all to the sport I love.”
The highlight of the remainder of the day was the fifth-round choice of supersized cornerback Brian Allen of Utah.
Allen, 6 feet 3 with long 34-inch arms and a vertical jump of 34.5 inches, is a converted wide receiver who made enough progress to intercept four passes last season, his second at the position and first as a starter.
“I think with some more games under his belt, he probably would’ve been drafted a lot higher,” said Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake.
The 215-pound Allen ran a 4.48 40 at the Combine, but ran a sluggish 4.34 short shuttle. He’s no doubt a developmental prospect for the Steelers.
The sixth-round selection of long-snapper Colin Holba was roundly criticized by fans on social media, but privately the Steelers are worried about the durability of 13th-year veteran Greg Warren.
Holba was the Louisville long-snapper the last two seasons and was surprised to be drafted.
“Absolutely,” he said.
Asked if he was attending a draft party, Holba said, “Had a couple of friends over, but I wouldn’t call it a party. It was just something to keep my mind off of today.”
Holba was considered a draftable prospect by NFL.com expert Lance Zierlein.
The Steelers last drafted a long-snapper in 2004 when they selected Drew Caylor in the sixth round, but Caylor didn’t make the team and Warren was signed after the 2005 draft.
In the seventh round, the Steelers drafted Keion Adams, a 6-2, 245-pound pass-rusher from Western Michigan who led the MAC last season with 17 tackles-for-loss and in two seasons as a starter had 13 sacks. Adams is considered a potential keeper by draft experts who like his “bend” around the edge.
Among the first group of free agents signed after the draft were local prospects Pitt tight end Scott Orndoff and DB Terrish Webb, WVU running back Rushel Shell and Indiana University of Pa. guard Ethan Cooper.
The Steelers also signed DTs Nelson Adams of Mississippi State and Christian Brown of WVU, DE Francis Kallon of Georgia Tech, LB Keith Kelsey of Louisville, QB Nick Schuessler of Clemson.
QB Josh Dobbs highlighted a Steelers’ Day 3 draft card that included a king-sized cornerback and a speedball pass-rusher.