He threw for nearly 15,000 yards with 111 touchdowns in college. He’s been doing this for probably almost all of his life. So when Devlin Hodges took the field yesterday for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was a certain level of comfort and confidence that came along with it, even with the initial jitters and butterflies associated with making your NFL debut.
But that’s the kind of player Hodges is, what has allowed him to make it this far, and why the Steelers have him on their roster. He has the requisite poise and demeanor that the coaching staff believes allows him to be a viable backup quarterback in the league (otherwise, he wouldn’t be here).
“I felt comfortable”, he told reporters about stepping onto the field for the first time. “I’ve been ready for this moment. Coach didn’t hold back at all. As you could see, we kept throwing the ball and whatnot. I’ve just got to go in and see what I can do better and get ready for next week”.
He said that he was making line adjustments on his first play of the game, which was ultimately a running play, so he didn’t waste any time. The only difference between that and what he’s been doing all year is that it now counts, and everyone is playing at the top of their profession.
Hodges has been with the Steelers since rookie minicamp, where he was a participant on a tryout basis. Pittsburgh signed him to the 90-man roster based on his performance, replacing Brogan Roback as the “fourth arm”, who has now had to play with Ben Roethlisberger lost for the season, Joshua Dobbs having been traded (in large part because Hodges was still available), and now with Mason Rudolph suffering an ugly-looking concussion.
Because he’s been here all that time, the coaching staff didn’t hesitate with him in the game. “I had the full gameplan”, he said. “I tell y’all each and every week that I feel comfortable and confident. We didn’t hold back at all. We just went out there and played the game. Just wish we would’ve won”.
A big part of the reason that they failed to win was because of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s fumble in overtime, with the Baltimore Ravens recovered within striking distance of a game-winning field goal. Which is ultimately what would happen.
“JuJu knows I would’ve come back to him the very next play”, Hodges told reporters. “There’s no other play call I’d rather have than that play right there. That’s just part of football”.
As are injuries, unfortunately, but those injuries can create opportunities for others, which is what Hodges is now going through. In all likelihood, he will be making his first NFL start next week with Rudolph almost sure to still be in the concussion protocol at that point.