Devlin Hodges

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges rolls out against the Chargers Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers remain in playoff contention going into Week 15 of the NFL season, and rookie free agent quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges—a product of Mortimer Jordan High School and Samford University—has a lot to do with it.

Hodges made his third start on Sunday afternoon, leading Pittsburgh to a 23-17 victory over the Cardinals in Arizona. The Steelers (8-5) have now won seven of their last eight. The 23-year-old righty out of MJHS has started under center in three of those contests.

On Sunday, Hodges connected on 16 of his 19 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown to go with another 34 yards rushing. He delivered a 2-yard touchdown strike to Diontae Johnson in the front corner of the end zone late in the third quarter to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 20-10.

“That’s just something that we practice every week—that specific route,” said Hodges during his post-game interview. “I had great protection and it was a great route. It’s all about timing, you have to have good timing, so we’ve been practicing it and it’s nice to execute it in a game.”

He also converted a key third-and-13 late in the fourth, as he commandeered a game-sealing drive that ended with Chris Boswell’s 25-yard field goal and a 23-17 lead. He scrambled away from a pass rush and fired on the run for a 17-yard conversion to Johnson, setting Pittsburgh up with a first-and-goal opportunity coming out of the two-minute warning.

“Usually a quarterback is not suppose to throw across their body, that’s usually not a good thing,” said Hodges of the third-down conversion. “… Johnson came wide open and I knew I could throw it and get the first down, so it’s just all about making plays when plays need to be made.”

The play was made and the Steelers went on to win 23-17, which bumped Hodges into rare company by becoming the first undrafted rookie NFL quarterback to win his first three starts since Ed Rubbert in 1987 for the Washington Redskins.

Hodges was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster after longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2. Mason Rudolph got the initial nod from head coach Mike Tomlin, but went down with an injury of his own during an Oct. 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

In three starts and two appearances in relief of Rudolph, Hodges has completed 41 of 61 attempts for 530 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. His three wins include a 24-17 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 13, a 20-13 home win over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 1 and a 23-17 road win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

“It’s great to have another chance to play. The confidence and the comfort level just comes with playing a lot,” said Hodges after his third start. “Obviously, the more you practice, the more you play, the more comfortable you get.”

Hodges, who graduated from Mortimer Jordan in 2014 and signed with Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent this season, has now led the Steelers to back-to-back wins over No. 1 overall draft picks, Kyler Murray of Arizona and Baker Mayfield of Cleveland.

“I’ve never really thought about playing or beating the No. 1 quarterback taken this year or last year; I just want to go out there and beat the opposing quarterback because that’s the opposing quarterback,” said Hodges on Sunday.

Pittsburgh plays host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football (NBC) next Sunday.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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