With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Up for Grabs: No. 3 Role
In the Mix: Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch, Mason Rudolph, J.T. Barrett
I’m choosing to be inclusive as far as the candidates go here, but the reality is that the number three quarterback position will almost surely boil down to a battle between Devlin Hodges, a second-year man, and Paxton Lynch, as he heads into his fourth training camp as a former 2017 first-round draft pick.
Why? Because Mason Rudolph is likely somewhat cemented into the number two, top backup role after starting eight games last season and watching Hodges flame out late in the year, while J.T. Barrett may not even make it to training camp.
And so you have Hodges and Lynch. Hodges was an undrafted free agent last year that the Steelers only signed to a contract after he beat out Brogan Roback in rookie minicamp. The small-school product out of Samford, who broke Steve McNair’s FCS passing record, brought a fearless attitude to the practice field with him that showed, and was observed by his teammates, including his defensive counterparts.
During the process, he spoke about his feeling of playing with house money multiple times, knowing that, even while he always believed in his talent to be an NFL player, he was aware that he had beaten the odds for someone coming in from his position.
He became the first undrafted rookie in a non-shortened season of the modern era to win his first three starts at quarterback last season. During those three games, and throughout the offseason, he showed a lot of promise—enough to get grown men to wear duck masks for a good month or so.
Things kind of crapped out from there, but the reality is he was already above and beyond where Rudolph or his predecessors were at the same points in their respective careers, so he shouldn’t be denied the opportunity for growth.
But then there is Lynch, whom the Steelers have talked about a number of times with great intrigue. He has the physical tools you would want in a quarterback, but they didn’t have the opportunity to get a look at him last year because he was signed two weeks into the season and they had to dedicate almost all the snaps to two young quarterbacks who had never thrown a meaningful pass before. Now, what little training camp there is, is Lynch’s chance to show them.