The underdog is about the most revered figure, not just in sports, but really in life in general. Overcoming adversity and the odds to best others who have had it better than you is a time-honored story that serves as an inspiration to others who feel as though they have been dealt a similar hand.
So it’s no wonder that so many Pittsburgh Steelers fans were quick to gravitate to rookie undrafted free agent FCS quarterback Devlin Hodges, even before they really knew anything about him at all. He wasn’t even signed as a college free agent, instead invited to a couple of minicamps—first the New York Giants, then Pittsburgh.
The Steeler signed him, of course, and he lasted throughout the offseason until he was waived with the 53-man roster cuts. You know the story by now, of course, of how he returned, and fate would have it that he should start this past Sunday in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
That a quarterback who didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster not only started but won a game is pretty remarkable for the Steelers this year, especially considering they are just 2-4 on the season to date. But it also speaks to the resilience of the team that they’ve held it together through all they’ve been through going back really to January.
“I think the biggest thing is some of those veteran guys, like Pouncey and Ramon Foster, and then on defense you got Joe Haden, T.J. Watt, I mean those guys are keeping everyone together”, Hodges told Pat McAfee after appearing on the former punter’s podcast earlier this week, when asked about how the team has weathered the storm.
“Even though we’ve had all this adversity and whatnot, Tomlin’s message is, ‘hey, if you’re a part of this 53-man roster, if you’re a part of this team, that means you can get the job done’”, Hodges went on. “So you just got to go out there each and every day and get better in practice, execute, and do whatever it takes to win”.
As Tomlin said during his post-game press conference, style points don’t matter anymore, especially now. When you’re 1-4 and down to your third-string quarterback, you’re taking any points, any footballs, any yards you can get by any means that you can get them.
And the Steelers got—and required—significant contributions from all three phases of the team that night in order to secure a primetime road victory on the west coast. Hodges was a part of that success, even if he wasn’t asked to do much.
But it’s the structure that the team has in place—a structure assembled largely by Tomlin—that created the conditions to build this resilient locker room, which allowed them to turn in such a performance and set themselves up with an opportunity to turn their season around.