It sure would be nice to be preparing to cover a game this weekend, but alas, that was not the hand that the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to deal for themselves this year, which became exceedingly unlikely—and then gradually, tantalizingly possible—after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down for the year with an elbow injury.
Since Roethlisberger was placed on the Reserve/Injured List, the Steelers actually posted a winning record of 8-6 with Mason Rudolph (5-3) and Devlin Hodges (3-3) manning the quarterback position. They even managed to raise their record to 8-5 after a 7-1 stretch in the middle of the year, but bookending the season with a pair of three-game losing streaks is awfully hard to overcome.
For most of the roster, this is unfortunately familiar territory, as they also just missed out on the postseason a year ago, but the rookie class of 2019 is feeling that frustration anew during their first taste of the NFL, knowing that they had a chance to make the postseason entering the final week, and they couldn’t do their part in the end.
“It definitely sucks. I heard Ramon saying earlier, going home in January is not fun”, Hodges told reporters after a game in which he did not throw a touchdown pass, and also lost a key fumble. “This is my first year, so I’m sure it hits some of the older guys that have experienced this a lot different, but any time you have to end the season, it always sucks, even if you go all the way. This is our job, this is what we enjoy, and no matter when that last game is, it definitely sucks”.
An undrafted rookie out of Samford, Hodges emerged late in the year as the team’s starting quarterback after Rudolph struggled, but the Steelers flipped back to Rudolph after the former had struggles of his own. With Rudolph getting injured, however, they had to roll with Duck in the finale.
Ultimately, over the span of his final three games, all losses, he threw just one touchdown pass, leading two total touchdown drives, while being responsible for seven giveaways, including six interceptions and a lost fumble. He fumbled four times in total.
It should be acknowledged that Hodges never should have been in the position he was in this year. A rookie undrafted free agent thrust into the starting quarterback role after spending the offseason as the number four arm…that’s a tough task.
Despite his failings at the end of the year, there is no reason to assume that he won’t be back next year, possibly competing for the backup role with Rudolph, the loser serving as the number three. And even that battle may go back and forth over the course of the year.