This could have been the Year of the Duck, had things gone differently, at least over the final three weeks of the season, in the Steel City. That’s because that had Devlin Hodges, nicknamed ‘Duck’, at quarterback down the stretch. And while he won his first three starts, he lost his last three, and frankly didn’t look very good in doing it. He led just two touchdown drives over the final three weeks while turning the ball over seven times.
Prior to that poor stretch, during which he was benched, but was forced to return because Mason Rudolph was injured, Hodges was the most popular man in Pittsburgh. People were literally wearing duck masks and duck shirts and buying duck calls. It was really quite insane. And now you can probably find a lot of duck-related merchandise for dirt cheap right now.
That’s not to say that Hodges is at the end of the road. All signs point to him returning in 2020 with the Steelers and likely being the frontrunner to serve as the number three quarterback, which is what his role should have been all along. He was asked to play well over his head and both physical and mental preparedness in 2019, if we’re being honest.
During his Tuesday press conference, in which he declared that Rudolph is entering the season as the backup quarterback, he also had some positive things to say about Hodges. “This is a guy that really had an awesome opportunity when you look at it”, he said, in terms of both playing time and growth. “I believe he did those things. How much he grows and what it means for him in the evolution as a player, we are going to be riding that and he is going to be riding that as we move forward”.
While I would be inclined to say that he has the mental fortitude to bounce back from some rough patches, I do have to say that his body language in the season finale was particularly poor, during which he completed just nine of 25 pass attempts for under 100 yards and lost a fumble without throwing a touchdown pass.
After his second loss, he told reporters that he doesn’t believe he is a bad player, that he has just been playing poorly, and that he understands the mistakes that he has been making and what the process is of going about fixing them.
It’s one thing to say something and another to do it, however, and the former is significantly easier. But players typically see their biggest growth from year one to year two. We saw that in Rudolph. We saw it in Joshua Dobbs. If Hodges can build off of what he learned in 2019, he should be able to retain his place in this league.