Every single year, dozens of players from around the league who did not hear their names called during draft weekend end up finding their way onto rosters. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers, who haven’t had as much success with college free agents recently, ended up with three on their team at different points: Fred Johnson, Tuzar Skipper, and Devlin Hodges.
Johnson was the only one on the 53-man roster for the season opener, though he was the team’s reserve, number nine lineman. As the season progressed and injury needs at running back arose, the Steelers waived him with the hope that they would be able to move him onto the practice squad, but the Cincinnati Bengals claimed him.
Skipper was also on the initial 53-man roster, but was released prior to the opener. He too was claimed, this time by the New York Giants, but he would eventually be released, this time going unclaimed. He would spend weeks on New York’s practice squad before the Steelers re-signed him to their 53.
Hodges didn’t even make the practice squad initially, signed after Week One after they traded Joshua Dobbs. By Week Three, Ben Roethlisberger was done for the season, and Hodges had to be called up just to be Mason Rudolph’s backup for the rest of the season.
He would go on to have the biggest impact on a season of any rookie undrafted free agent for the Steelers in recent years, starting six games and playing in a couple of others. He ultimately posted a 3-3 record and his stat line doesn’t look great, but much was asked of him under the circumstances.
After the draft, the Samford product had a message to those who didn’t hear their name. after congratulating all of the players who did get drafted over the weekend, he made sure to let the undrafted guys know: “it’s not over”.
Congrats to all you guys who got drafted! To the guys who weren’t drafted.. trust me..it’s not over
— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) April 25, 2020
Not only was Hodges an undrafted free agent, he wasn’t signed after the draft. He was invited to the Steelers’ rookie minicamp, and only then signed, unseating Brogan Roback. And it was the second minicamp he had attended, failing to make his first team.
It’s fair to say he persevered and never looked back. He drew attention every step of the way, and that ultimately led to him getting a ton of playing time last year, albeit amid unfortunate circumstances that otherwise wouldn’t have come about.
The Steelers have added 10 undrafted free agents this year, including a couple of highly-rated defensive line prospects. How many of them will make the 53-man roster? The practice squad? Remember, the practice squad has been expanded to 12 players this year.