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JuJu Smith-Schuster: Devlin Hodges ‘One Of Those Guys That Surprises Us A Lot’

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the teams who are regarded as a contender every year because they have the fortune to have at their disposal a quarterback regarded as a franchise piece. The 2019 season was a deviation from that pattern, with Ben Roethlisberger missing the majority of the season because of an elbow injury that resulted in him having surgery.

Failing the services of a franchise quarterback, the position ended up in the hands of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, neither of whom had thrown a meaningful pass as a professional prior to the start of the 2019 regular season.

Rudolph was the anointed one, a 2018 third-round pick whom the Steelers deemed a first-round talent and the possible successor to Roethlisberger. First due to injury, and then due to performance, however, Hodges was handed the reins multiple times over the course of the year.

I imagine I don’t need to remind you that Hodges was a rookie undrafted free agent out of Samford, who only was signed after being invited to participate at the Steelers’ rookie minicamp, the second such camp he attended after the draft.

For a brief period of time, it almost seemed as though the team really had something in Hodges, resulting in ‘Duck Season’ and ‘Duck Mania’, but that died a quick death after he floundered over the final three games, all losses, dooming the team’s postseason chances.

That’s not to say the road is closed for him going forward. Remember, he was a nobody playing with house money. That’s an analogy he linked to himself, and yesterday, JuJu Smith-Schuster did as well during his Super Bowl media rounds.

“What we say is that he’s the guy at the casino playing with casino money”, he said on Pro Football Talk Live, “because he got $1000 for his signing bonus and they basically said, ‘here’s 500,000 chips, what can you do with it? Can you perform? Can you go out there and dominate? Can you win games? Or are you gonna lose it all?”. So he’s one of those guys that surprises us a lot”.

On that topic, he added, “what surprised me a lot was that he was able—he had so much confidence and swagger coming into every game. In the huddle, you could feel that with him. And I feel that his biggest thing was that the whole offense was like, ‘alright, this dude, very confident’”.

As things currently stand, assuming that Roethlisberger is healthy for 2020, Hodges still projects to return as the number three quarterback next season. Ideally, he will never have to even dress for a game, save for a meaningless Week 17 contest after the team has already secured homefield advantage, active as Rudolph’s backup.

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