New series we’re kicking off on Steelers Depot. Yesterday, we relayed Sports Illustrated’s list of the all-time undrafted team, one that included James Harrison. And it got me to thinking — what would the all-Steelers’ list look like? A franchise that’s been around since 1933 and littered with household names who began their career undrafted.
Also, I really wanted to put Donnie Shell on this list after SI snubbed him. So spoiler alert, he’s going to be on here.
As criteria for this article, I only considered players who signed with Pittsburgh as UDFAs. Meaning, a first-year UDFA who spent time with another club and then came over to Pittsburgh wouldn’t qualify. These will be players from 1936, year of the first NFL draft, to present day.
We’ll take this position-by-position. Some groups are stronger than others. Today’s start with quarterback isn’t exactly one of those areas of strength.
Quarterback: Devlin Hodges (2019)
It may feel strange to see Hodges’ name on here. The man they called Duck who just two years ago was thrust into the national spotlight and starting lineup. Not only as an undrafted player from Samford but one who initially arrived in Pittsburgh on a tryout basis. He impressed at rookie minicamp, beating out Brogan Roback for the #4 QB gig before starring in training camp.
After Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow surgery and an injury to Mason Rudolph, Hodges made his debut against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, completing seven of nine passes and nearly leading the Steelers to an OT win.
Pittsburgh turned to him as their starter the following week, a primetime game out west versus the Chargers. Hodges wasn’t asked to do much, throwing the ball only 20 times, but hit James Conner for a touchdown as the Steelers won 24-17. He led the team to two more wins against the Browns and Cardinals before things fell apart as the team dropped their final three games and fell out of the playoff race. In total, Hodges started six games, going 3-3, throwing for five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
With Roethlisberger healthy for 2020 and the team bringing back Josh Dobbs, Pittsburgh carried Hodges on the practice squad all season. He hit free agency in the offseason and the Los Angeles Rams signed him to a futures contract.
Options for the best UDFA quarterback other than Hodges are limited, to say the least. Kent Nix, a QB of the 60s, nearly made the list. His first NFL action came with the Steelers, but he was with the Green Bay Packers for 1966 and then traded over to Pittsburgh. So he doesn’t count.
Honorable Mention: Tommy Wade (1964-1965)
The closest competition, if you can call it that, is Tommy Wade. He started two games for the team in 1965. He lost both games, each against Washington, in blowout fashion, 31-3 and 35-13. Wade completed exactly half his career passes (33/66) and threw 13 picks to just a pair of touchdowns. In a game off the bench against Philadelphia, he tossed seven interceptions. That’s the most by a Steelers’ QB in team history and tied for the second-most by any quarterback in a game in league history.