It’s not often that one team sees two quarterbacks make both their NFL debuts and their first career starts in the same season, but due to unfortunate circumstances, the Pittsburgh Steelers are just the latest.
After second-year Mason Rudolph was called into action by the second half of the second game due to a season-ending elbow injury that franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was dealing with, he took over for the Steelers for most of the next three games or so.
But he, too, would be knocked out of a game, taking a hit to the head from Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas that resulted in him receiving a concussion. As of this writing, he remains in the concussion protocol and has already been ruled out for tomorrow’s game, even though he participated in practice as the scout-team quarterback.
Taking his place, though, was Devlin Hodges, the undrafted rookie out of an FCS school. He came in and completed seven of nine passes for 68 yards and helped lead a touchdown drive on his first series, taking over on that drive around midfield.
He came in cold, but you might not know it if you’d just tuned in. He appeared calm and collected and ran the offense as one might expect a quarterback to. There weren’t any real moments that made you say this is clearly a fill-in guy.
“When it comes to football, I always prepare like I’m going to be the guy”, Hodges told ESPN reporter Brooke Pryor earlier this week for an article about his background as he prepares to make his first start. “I think that’s why when I was thrown out there and I wasn’t nervous, I was prepared and confident. I just have a lot of belief in myself. The nerves are still there. I might just do a better job at hiding them”.
His composure was the subject of wide discussion, among teammates, among coaches, and even among the Steelers’ upcoming opponents, the Los Angeles Chargers, who came away surprised and impressed by what they saw from Hodges in his limited action at the end of the Steelers’ last game. Especially for a player they had barely even heard of before.
Among those whom he has grown close to since coming to Pittsburgh was fellow rookie undrafted free agent, guard Fred Johnson, who was released today in order to promote Paxton Lynch to the 53-man roster, with the hopes of re-signing him to the practice squad on Monday.
“I feel like Mason would wear a suit on the field if he could, and Duck would have on a camo outfit”, he told Pryor. “That’s just who they are. Duck’s more loose”, he continued, adding, “Mason is more like stern, efficient with what he does. He doesn’t waste energy dancing around and stuff like that”.
You can see the differences in their personalities in the way that they play as well, or at least you could during the preseason. Hodges will get the chance to show the country in primetime what he’s all about, though, tomorrow night in Los Angeles.