He might not be on the 53-man roster, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way for the entirety of the regular season. First-year tight end Bucky Hodges was added to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster during training camp due to injuries, but made the most of his opportunities to work his way to a spot on the practice squad. And with multiple injury issues at tight end—plus his ability to contribute on special teams—there may come a point in the season in which he gets called up.
While known primarily as a receiving tight end, the Steelers are working with him to improve his blocking, but he got a chance to show off some of his pass-catching skills in the preseason finale, which included this 36-yard gain that nearly resulted in a touchdown. Sure, bad defense, easy catch, but he nearly put it in the end zone.
Hodges also got a lot of work as a blocker, both in the running game and in pass protection. Here’s one example as a run-blocker working off of left tackle, staying aggressive and maintaining contact with his assignment throughout the play on a five-yard first-down run.
One play after that, the Steelers got him on the move, pulling him from the far side of the formation on second and five. The result was a fairly easy pitch-and-catch for first-down yardage. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get more opportunities to test his receiving skills, but the tight ends were pretty sparsely-targeted throughout the preseason.
Later in the quarter, he drew a pass-protection assignment on a first-down play, but the tight end and left tackle struggled to work the stunt, with Hodges ultimately letting the inside rusher through the pocket, laying a hit on Joshua Dobbs.
He later in the third quarter he suddenly flashes down the field at the tail end of a deep completion to Tevin Jones. As the wide receiver looked for an angle, the tight end came screaming down the left sideline and knocked down a couple of defenders to open up the perimeter for a handful of extra yards.
Hodges had another downfield block similar to the one above during the third preseason game, which I’m sure the coaching staff also noticed. He is the second first-year tight end in as many years to make a good impression after being picked up in training camp. We’ll see how both of them—the other being Jake McGee—look this spring.