It’s been a long journey from Milan to Minsk for Devlin Hodges. I’m sure I’ve already used that Seinfeld reference once before to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback, but it really has been a hell of a ride so far. Entering the picture as a rookie minicamp invitee, the Samford product may be taking over the starting job for a playoff contender over the course of the final five games of the season. Who would have ever seen that coming?
After Mike Tomlin decided to pull Mason Rudolph one drive into the second half, it threw down the gauntlet. No longer is the ‘first-round grade’ quarterback on scholarship. His free ride is over. If he plays another snap under center, unless due to injury, it’s going to be because he earned it.
Meanwhile, Hodges has made three appearances in total for the Steelers, including one start, which he won, on the road, on the west coast. He inherited a losing score yesterday and helped the team pick up 13 points that went nearly unanswered, outside of a field goal.
“Obviously, it feels great that the coaches aren’t afraid to call on me”, Hodges told reporters after the game. “Every time they’ve called on me, I’ve provided. Coach Tomlin always says, ‘if I ever ring, if I ever dial, answer’. That’s kind of something he says to everybody. It’s about this being a team. Everyone that’s wearing a helmet each and every week has got to be prepared and go out there and do the job”.
The rookie stressed on about half a dozen occasions that his priority is to always be prepared to play. While that’s the job description of a backup quarterback, it’s sometimes easier said than done when, in the vast majority of cases, the backup doesn’t have to enter the game.
But Hodges has been stating his case literally since the middle of May. He’s come all this way. There have been some bumps in the road—he didn’t make the initial 53-man roster, and was even looking to pursue an opportunity in the XFL before Pittsburgh came calling again—but he’s here, and he knows he has the trust of the locker room.
“They’ve seen me play. I had to play against the Chargers, and they know that I can get the job done”, he said. “You talk to a bunch of guys on defense, and they’ll tell you that I’m out there competing against them on scout team each and every week. I know there’s a lot of confidence. I’m just glad to go in, get the score, and get the win”.
The Steelers are now 6-5, one of I believe four teams with that record, but they are currently seeded at the top of that list. The Cleveland Browns are threatening right behind them at 5-6. They are also their next opponent. Whoever starts at quarterback, whether it’s Hodges or Rudolph, has the opportunity to extinguish that threat in front of the Heinz Field crowd.