The Pittsburgh Steelers probably never envisioned, when the season started, or certainly any time before it, that they would reach a point in 2019 at which they would all upon Devlin Hodges, the undrafted rookie out of Samford, to start for them at quarterback as their first option behind Ben Roethlisberger, even accepting the realities of injuries.
But here we are, with Hodges about to be under center in what is up to now the most important game of the season, while Mason Rudolph, who has started every game for which he has been healthy since Week Three, is helping him prepare to face the Cleveland Browns.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Because the Steelers have Hodges’ back. They’ve always seen his abilities, going back to OTAs. They’ve been through the fire with him. Frankly, many of the players at the skill positions on offense right now directly worked with him in training camp and in the preseason.
It’s not just the youthful skill positions who are pulling for him either, though. Take Ramon Foster, the oldest player on the 53-man roster. “What he’s shown us so far is that he can be an important guy on this team if he continues to grow”, he told Will Graves of the Associated Press.
That was after saying that “we’re [not] looking for him to save the world”. Because, if that is what anybody is expecting coming into this game, then boy are they in for a world of disappointment. No, this game will be about everybody else coming together to support Hodges. He’s not going to come in and suddenly lift everybody up.
What his teammates have appreciated most from Hodges has, oddly enough, been his decision-making. In spite of the fact that he has actively talked about how he has “nothing to lose”, he doesn’t necessarily play like it. Of his six incompletions on Sunday, three were throwaways, for example. He’s only made perhaps two bad decisions on throws this season that put the ball in harm’s way, and one of them was negated by a penalty.
Showing a sense of responsibility with the football, in conjunction with his other characteristics, both football-related and otherwise, have yielded to him the support of the locker room, from those both new and old, from depth players to starters.
Not that they have much of a choice. He is going to be their starter whether they like it or not, so they might as well do everything they can to support him and help him win this game—and perhaps the next four after it as well, then down through the postseason.