The 2020 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2019 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work from.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Robert Spillane and Tevin Jones because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with 10 selections, including two in the third round and three in the sixth, but ended up trading their second-round pick to move up in the first round. They received additional third- and fifth-round picks for trading Antonio Brown, a sixth for Marcus Gilbert, and the other sixth was part of the Ryan Switzer trade the year before.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Devlin Hodges
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 6 (14 games)
It’s been a while since the Steelers had an undrafted rookie have as big an impact on a season as Devlin Hodges did last year—for better or worse. Unsigned after the draft, Hodges was invited to rookie minicamp, where he earned a spot on the 90-man roster at the expense of Brogan Roback as the number four quarterback.
While he drew attention throughout the offseason, the Steelers did what was expected in keeping Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, and Joshua Dobbs on the 53-man roster. Dobbs, however, was traded after one week, and they came back and signed Hodges to the practice squad.
Roethlisberger would go down for the season the following week, prompting Hodges to be elevated. After Rudolph was injured against the Ravens in Week Five, the Samford product had to step in, and while he couldn’t engineer a win to finish that game in an overtime contest, he did start and win the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
After several more weeks, Rudolph struggled, and Mike Tomlin made the decision to pull him after throwing five interceptions in six quarters. Hodges was inserted after the first drive of the second half in the second Bengals game, helping to lead a small comeback and victory. He would win the following game, a rematch against the Browns, as well.
He because the first undrafted rookie quarterback to go 3-0. But then he went 0-3 to finish out the season, even being pulled in the second game after throwing a flurry of interceptions of his own. Rudolph did well before being injured, and Hodges had to come back in.
The Steelers only scored 30 points in total over their last three games, with Rudolph accounting for some of that. Hodges had Duck Season in full effect for a while, but now a lot of people just want him to fly away and not risk the possibility of him seeing the field again.