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Point/Counterpoint: Devlin Hodges should be the starting quarterback against the Dolphins

BTSC writers Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis offer differing opinions on whether or not the Steelers should stay with Devlin Hodges over Mason Rudolph.

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Since Ben Roethlisberger went down in Week 2 against Seattle, the Steelers have had solid play from two quality backups. But since Devlin “Duck” Hodges won his first start last week subbing for a concussed Mason Rudolph, some have felt that the UDFA from Samford should be the QB1, while others support Mike Tomlin’s decision to go with Rudolph when he returns. BTSC’s resident heels, The Steeler Hangover’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis, have differing viewpoints on this particular subject. Read them as they slug it out in text below.

The Duck should be the Steelers starting QB going forward.

Tony Defeo’s Point:

What happened on Sunday night was a thing of beauty. I’m talking, of course, about the Steelers’ very cathartic and soothing to the soul 24-17 victory over the Chargers at Rokit Field at Dignity Health Stadium.

It’s rare for the Steelers to earn victories these days, so rare that, when they happen, you pay extra attention to the special ingredients that were stirred together to make it a reality. You pay attention to player attitude, player will, player enthusiasm, player hustle. All were on display against the Chargers last Sunday. It was almost as if they were answering a call. Maybe that’s because the man who won the National Duck Calling Champion a decade earlier was summoning his teammates to go hunting for victory.

I’m referring to rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, who was getting his first-career start just months after setting national passing records at Samford University.

In completing 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception, Hodges didn’t set the world on fire, but it was apparent that, to quote head coach Mike Tomlin, the moment wasn’t too big for him. He wasn’t afraid of the spotlight. He wasn’t afraid to be a leader.

He showed confidence, poise and moxie. And maybe it was just my overactive imagination, but I think I detected the kind of “it” factor only certain quarterbacks, the ones that are truly special, possess.

Certain quarterbacks throughout history just knew how to win, their physical attributes and skill-set, be damned. When you think of players like Bobby Layne, Joe Kapp and even Tim Tebow, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? They were winners. They just won. It didn’t matter if they passed for 316 yards or 60 yards, they found a way to get the job done. It didn’t matter if they threw a perfect spiral or a duck, the pass got to where it needed to go.

Layne willed the Detroit Lions to multiple NFL Championships in the 1950s before coming to Pittsburgh and nearly leading that sad-sack franchise to one in the 1960s.

Kapp never met a spiral that he wanted to throw, but he did well enough in leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFL Championship in 1969 that he was voted team MVP. And in a display of leadership often unseen in the sports world, Kapp refused to accept the trophy at a team function because, in his opinion, there were 40 Most Valuable Vikings.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of quarterback I’d run through a brick wall for.

As for Tebow, his career was short, but his effect on his Broncos teammates was long-lasting, starting in 2011, when he was thrust into the lineup mid-season and led Denver to an 8-8 record and AFC West crown. Of course, you know what Tebow did when he reached the postseason, right? He defeated the Steelers in overtime in the wildcard round. Tebow taught the Broncos how to win, which probably explains why, even in his absence, they were able to reach two of the next four Super Bowls and capture their third Lombardi Trophy following the 2015 season.

Back to that wildcard victory over the Steelers. Many asked how could someone like Tebow beat the Steelers? Simple. He willed the Broncos to victory. Same held true for Layne, this despite his notorious heavy drinking habits the night before games.

Same for Kapp.

Same for any quarterback with true leadership skills.

I believe Hodges possesses those leadership qualities. That is why I think it’s an error in judgment for Tomlin to quickly reinstate Mason Rudolph as his starting quarterback against the Dolphins, less than three weeks after he was knocked out of the Ravens game by a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit.

Tomlin said that if Rudolph clears the concussion protocol, something he indicated was all but a formality, he will get his old job back.

Excuse me, Coach, but did you see how your team responded to Duck Dynasty? Did you see how your players circled the wagons and refused to let their young starting quarterback down?

Only truly great leaders can inspire that kind of commitment and dedication in their teammates.

I think it’s a mistake to go back to Rudolph. I think it’s unfair to his team for Tomlin to pull the rug out from under his players just when they were beginning to believe in something and, more importantly, someone.

That someone is Devlin Hodges, and he should be the Steelers starting quarterback against the Dolphins and everyone else over the final 10 games of the 2019 regular season.

Bryan Anthony Davis’ Counterpoint

Tony, you are 0-5 (sure out of nearly 1,200 votes, I only beat you by two last week) and I even let you pick the point this week. I can’t believe that this is what you came up with. This decision was almost as inconceivable as Alex P. Keaton choosing to matriculate at Leland College in Ohio rather than his dream school of Princeton in a 1984 episode of “Family Ties” or the Browns drafting Baker Mayfield as the first overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

I get it you are drinking the duck-flavored Kool-Aid. I love the guy and his story too. And yes, he does have poise, moxie and an “it” factor. But saying, after just one start, that he has earned the keys to the castle is just ducked—up. Also, you’re dipping into the Joe Kapp well? What are you 90? Kapp, Layne and Tebow all had a certain je ne sais quoi, but you are making the last two seem bigger than they were. Layne, 27-20-2 as a Steeler, never led the Steelers to the playoffs. Kordell Stewart, Cliff Stoudt, Tommy Maddox, Neil O’Donnell, Mark Malone, Bubby Brister and Mike Tomczak did...but Layne did not. And I don’t recall anybody wearing navy blue and orange and covered in confetti saying, “We would have never done it without the influence of Tim, two freaking years ago”.

Look, I am and will be forever grateful for Mr. Hodges leading the Steelers to victory in a must-win situation in Lost Angeles last Sunday, but we are forgetting a couple of things in our giddiness. Lets outline them, shall we?

  • Devin Bush, James Conner and a protective game plan were the key factors in the victory against LA.

Yes, the Samford kid was 15/20 with 132 yards and threw both a touchdown and an interception with the most important stat being the one in the win column. But those completions were so short, I can spit at a further distance. He also showed great composure in the pocket and was elusive as well when needed. But I can’t help but thinking that had Devin Bush not picked up a backwards pass and hustled it in and had he not intercepted a ball deep in Chargers territory, there would have been a lot more pressure on the young quarterback. Thus a 14-point lead made it much easier for him to just play. Also, because the scheme was filled with high percentage plays and due to the fact that James Conner was fighting for yards like a bulldog stuck in a pair of blue jeans, Devlin was never in a situation where he had to force things or come from behind.

  • He hasn’t established a deep ball or a medium one, for that matter.

Now before we wax poetically about Mason Rudolph being a dink-and-dunker as well, let’s remember that Rudolph has had four of his seven TD passes go for more than 30 yards. When Hodges threw deep, he underthrew JuJu on what would have been a long score and the other Duck deep-one was a just that, a duck that got picked off. I’m sure he can throw deep, but just like Mason, you need to ease a young quarterback into going longer.

  • Mason hasn’t failed anything yet.

Rudolph has only played three-and-a-half NFL games. He is learning the NFL game as well. But despite a 1-3 record, all three losses were marred by a costly turnover at the absolute worst time (one that Donte Moncrief caused against Seattle, a Conner cough-up in San Francisco and JuJu’s gaffe at the end of the Ravens game, MR2 has very good numbers and was making great strides as well.

The bottom line to this whole situation is that, despite Ben Roethlisberger being out, the Steelers are rich with backups at this juncture and I would ride with both. But Mason is the best bet at this moment based on his progression and skill level. But I would still be comfortable with Duck having his back if necessary again.

So...what are your thoughts? Which one of us gets to bask in the glory of being right this week? State your case in the comments section and be sure to vote in the poll. BAD is 5-0 on the season, while TonDef is looking like he’s tanking for Tua.


Do you agree more with Tony Defeo or Bryan Anthony Davis on whether or not the Steelers should start Devlin Hodges against Miami?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    TonDef is right. Duck is the guy.
    (203 votes)
  • 83%
    I’m with BAD. Mason is the man.
    (1033 votes)
1236 votes total Vote Now