September 7th, 2020 at 6:16pm CST by Zachary Links
Devlin Hodges wasn’t gone for long. After waiving the quarterback over the weekend, the Steelers inked him to a practice squad deal on Monday, per a club announcement. With Duck under contract, and running back Wendell Smallwood on the way, the Steelers have their initial taxi squad in place. Here’s the full rundown:
The Steelers were set to roll with Hodges as their QB3, up until they claimed Josh Dobbs off waivers from the Jaguars. Last year, Hodges went from an unheralded UDFA on the practice squad to a fill-in starter after Ben Roethlisberger went down. He wasn’t able to keep his momentum after a hot start, but coaches still like him as an emergency option.
Smallwood was one of the Eagles’ main running backs in 2018, but didn’t much action with Washington in 2019. In 15 games, he registered 22 carries for 81 yards, good for a 3.7 yards per tote average.
September 6th, 2020 at 12:21pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Steelers are bringing back a couple of familiar faces. Pittsburgh is signing safety Sean Davis and they’ve claimed quarterback Josh Dobbs off waivers from the Jaguars, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (Twitterlinks).
In order to make room for Dobbs, the team has cut fellow quarterback Devlin Hodges. The Steelers drafted Davis in the second round in 2016, and he spent his first four years in Pittsburgh. He started 31 games between 2017-18, but missed almost all of last season due to injury. He signed a one-year deal worth $5MM with Washington this offseason, but couldn’t make it out of camp.
During these uncertain times, teams are clearly placing an emphasis on familiarity and system knowledge. Davis played closer to the line of scrimmage his first couple of pro seasons, but moved to free safety in 2018. The Steelers drafted Dobbs in the fourth-round in 2017, but he became expendable when they drafted Mason Rudolph the following year and they ended up trading him to Jacksonville.
Dobbs lost the battle in Jacksonville to be Gardner Minshew‘s backup, which is how he ended up on waivers. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a season-ending elbow injury, and Pittsburgh apparently wants all the insurance they can get behind him.
Hodges was an incredible story last year, as the unheralded UDFA from Samford was promoted from the practice squad after Big Ben went down and ended up starting games. Hodges ended up starting six games, becoming a fan favorite in the process. He declined sharply as more tape on him became available, but he’ll still probably end up on Pittsburgh’s or someone else’s practice squad.
The Steelers did not draft a quarterback and have not signed a veteran this offseason, and GM Kevin Colbert elaborated on why recently.
Not only did the Steelers’ 21st-year GM confirm the team did not make an offer to Jameis Winston, he said the Steelers intend to go forward with the backups they used last season. Pittsburgh has former third-round pick Mason Rudolph and ex-UDFA Devlin Hodges under contract. Former first-round pick Paxton Lynch is as well, though he did not play last season.
“We’re comfortable with Mason Rudolph as a backup and Devlin Hodges in the mix. Between the two of them, they were 8-6 last year,” Colbert said during an appearance on the #PFTPM podcast (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “You get into a backup quarterback situation, 8-6 is not 14-0 but there’s some comfort in knowing that they can get you through the hopefully nonexistent spell that may occur if your quarterback gets injured.”
The Steelers make sense for a veteran, with Ben Roethlisberger coming off elbow surgery in advance of his age-38 season. His two backups oversaw a last-place offensive DVOA season. The Steelers ranked sixth in offensive DVOA in 2018, when Big Ben started 16 games, but plummeted to last in 2019 after his Week 2 injury. The Steelers’ improved defense (third in DVOA) played a significant part in the team’s eight wins. Rudolph and Hodges tied for last place in Next Gen Stats’ average completed air yards metric, with each at 4.5 per completion.
Colbert attributed part of his team’s lack of interest in veterans to its salary cap situation. The Steelers hold $5.7MM in cap space and have yet to sign any of their draft picks. Although Pittsburgh frequently restructures contracts to create cap room, the team is not planning to change up its Roethlisberger-Rudolph-Hodges QB room for the time being.
“Lot of times when we get into salary cap management and you have significant dollars in your starter, it’s hard to put a lot of dollars in your backup,” Colbert said. “We’re very comfortable knowing if need be Mason and Devlin and/or Devlin and Mason and even Paxton Lynch, who’s got No. 1 talent. We’ll see what we got, but we’re comfortable with that right now.”
The Bengals are widely expected to take LSU QB Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, but there may be a bit of intrigue in that regard, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Burrow will work with former Bengal Jordan Palmer, the little brother of franchise icon Carson Palmer, for his pre-draft training. And the elder Palmer recently had some critical comments for Cincinnati, saying that the club was never really dedicated to chasing a Super Bowl.
Burrow subsequently said the following: “[y]ou want to go No. 1. But you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.” That may just be a coincidence, and Burrow’s father recently downplayed any notion that Burrow doesn’t want to be picked by the Bengals (Twitter link via Jeremy Rauch of FOX 19), but Breer believes Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin may need to sell Burrow on the team just a bit.
Now for more from the AFC North:
As expected, the Bengals have promoted Dan Pitcher to quarterbacks coach after Alex Van Pelt left for Cleveland’s OC job, the team announced. Pitcher will have a significant role in Burrow’s development, assuming Cincy selects the LSU signal-caller.
We passed along some remarks from new Browns GM Andrew Berryearlier today, and new Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski also took to the podium. Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com passes along the entire transcript, which is worth a read for Browns fans, but much of it was fairly non-committal coach-speak, which Stefanski has already mastered. Stefanski, though, made it a point to note that he will be heavily involved in making personnel decisions with Berry, and he said he does not know who will be calling offensive plays this year.
Though the Ravens have more cap flexibility this year than in past seasons, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic does not expect a spending spree. He predicts perhaps one big-ticket item and a few modest signings, and much will depend on what the club decides to do with pass rusher Matt Judon — a situation that is still fluid — and whether RG Marshal Yanda retires. He also names OL James Hurst as a potential release candidate.
December 23rd, 2019 at 1:23pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Right after the Mason Rudolph redemption arc started, it was immediately put to rest. The Steelers quarterback is “out multiple weeks” with the shoulder injury he suffered during Pittsburgh’s loss to the Jets, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).
Rapoport adds that even if Pittsburgh makes it into the postseason, “Rudolph is not expected to be available.” That means Devlin Hodges will be the starter in Week 17 against the Ravens, and potentially in a playoff game. Pittsburgh needs to beat Baltimore, and to have Tennessee either tie or lose to Houston, to get the final wild card spot in the AFC. Rudolph, a third-round pick in 2018, immediately took over under center when Ben Roethlisberger first went down all the way back at the beginning of the season.
He missed a game with a concussion and Hodges performed reasonably well, and when Rudolph struggled mightily upon returning, he was quickly benched for Hodges. After an initial honeymoon period Hodges began to turn the ball over frequently as well, and he was pulled against New York. Rudolph provided an initial spark and was playing well, before going down with the shoulder injury.
Former first-round Broncos bust Paxton Lynch is also on the roster, and will back up Hodges. It sure would be something if he manages to find his way onto the field. Fortunately for their cause, it looks like the Ravens are going to be resting a lot of their starters in Week 17. It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for the Steelers, and this is just the latest turn in a wild sequence of events.
Dak Prescott went through an MRI on his injury shoulder Wednesday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. The Cowboys quarterback did not throw in the team’s opening practice this week due to what Ezekiel Elliott said was an AC join sprain. Jason Garrett did not confirm that prognosis but said it was “hard for (Prescott) to function right now.” The fourth-year passer suffered the injury on a scramble against the Rams. Prescott, who has not missed a game in his NFL career, is also dealing with a sprained right wrist and sprained right index finger. The Cowboys have former UDFA Cooper Rush (three NFL pass attempts) as Prescott’s backup, though it would be surprising if the starter missed any time.
Here is the latest from various quarterback situations:
The Colts have seen Jacoby Brissett‘s play decline as the season’s gone along, but Frank Reich reaffirmed his commitment to the fourth-year passer as his starter. Reich shot down the notion Chad Kelly would be given significant reps in the final two weeks of regular-season practices, per Mike Chappell of Fox 59. The two-year, $30MM deal the Colts gave Brissett following Andrew Luck‘s retirement guarantees him $7MM via 2020 roster bonus. It would not be a surprise if the Colts added a quarterback in the offseason, per Stephen Holder of The Athletic (subscription required). Brian Hoyer is under contract through 2021 and would bring just a $2MM dead-money hit if released. The Colts are again projected to hold the most cap space in the NFL. There are plenty of impact names set to be free agents, but very few will actually reach the market.
Chris Ballard‘s regime has focused primarily on building through the draft, and Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star tweets the Colts should be ready to closely examine passing prospects. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and perhaps Tua Tagovailoa will be gone by the time Indianapolis’ mid-first-round selection window opens.
The Steelers announced they are sticking with Devlin Hodges against the Jets, despite his four-interception performance. Hodges has posted a 38.4 QBR figure, which betters Mason Rudolph‘s league-worst 31.9 mark. The Steelers have not thrown for 200 yards in their past five games.
Jordan Love recently declared for the draft. The Utah State prospect was arrested for marijuana possession, according to Will Feelright of the Cache Valley Daily. Police were called to an off-campus apartment complex and arrested two other players for marijuana possession. Love is still on track to play in Friday’s Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
December 1st, 2019 at 8:02pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Panthers suffered an absolutely brutal loss Sunday, losing at home to the Redskins as massive favorites. Carolina is effectively eliminated from the playoff hunt, and Ron Rivera’s seat is starting to heat up. The ugly loss was “likely more than enough to prompt new owner David Tepper to make big changes in January,” writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Rivera was rumored to be close to getting fired after last year, but his staff was given one more season to prove themselves. Tepper only bought the team before last season, so he doesn’t have any particularly deep ties to the coach who guided them to a Super Bowl a handful of years ago.
It might not help or matter much, but the circumstances have been far from ideal for Rivera in 2019. Cam Newton was never healthy and barely played, and he’s had second-year UDFA Kyle Allen under center for most of the year. The Panthers went on a hot streak after Allen was inserted, but have since completely collapsed. For his part, Rivera insisted after the game he wasn’t worrying about his job status per Bill Voth of the team’s official site (Twitter link), although there’s not really much else he can say at this point. Assuming he gets fired it’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest he gets on the market, considering he’s had real success in the past. Notably, offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach Norv Turner would surely become available as well if Rivera is let go.
Here’s more from around the league:
The Steelers benched Mason Rudolph and are rolling with Devlin Hodges at quarterback, and they picked up a crucial win over the Browns on Sunday. Mike Tomlin’s decision to go with Hodges was “was well received throughout the organization,” La Canfora writes in a separate piece. JLC also adds that some people in the building were surprised Tomlin didn’t initially stick with Hodges after he won a game over the Chargers while Rudolph was sidelined with a concussion. He notes that the staff loves Hodges’ scrambling ability, and that he’s been compared to Gardner Minshew by some in the organization. Pittsburgh is apparently pretty high on Hodges and barring injury, it doesn’t sound like we’ll see Rudolph again any time soon.
Speaking of embattled coaching staffs, the Giants’ is up against it right now. Rumors of a potential Pat Shurmur firing continue to percolate, and the Giants got routed by the Packers on Sunday as pictures of a mostly empty stadium went viral online. The staff has yet another problem on their hands now, as cornerback Janoris Jenkins publicly blasted the way he’s being used after the game.”You’ve got to use your weapons. I’m the only one in the league that doesn’t travel (w/the opponents top WR). I don’t understand why,” Jenkins said via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitterlinks). “It’s common sense. I’m on the left side of the field all game. I get two passes thrown my way. All the top corners in the league travel. Rabbit doesn’t travel anymore.” Jenkins is apparently clashing with defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Jackrabbit has one year left on his five-year, $62.5 MM deal after this one. He could be cut following this season for only around a $3.5MM penalty, but he’s still by far the best player in their secondary.
Some slight positive news to pass along in the continuing A.J. Green watch, as the Bengals receiver said “everything’s trending up” with his troublesome ankle, per Ben Baby of ESPN.com. The talented wideout still didn’t give any concrete timetable for a return, saying “when my ankle feels good enough to play, then I’ll play.” Green returned to practice a few weeks ago and appeared to be returning imminently, but then suffered a setback. Even without their top offensive option, Cincy managed to pick up their first win of the season Sunday.
Rudolph completed just 8 of 16 passes for 65 yards and a red zone interception before being yanked against the Bengals. After Hodges entered in the third quarter, he finished out 5-of-11 for 118 yards and a touchdown in a comeback win.
Tomlin was non-committal when asked about a potential shakeup after Sunday’s game, but this was the expected move. Hodges is not a world-beater, nor does he profile as the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, but he might be the team’s better option as they push for the playoffs.
At 6-5, the Steelers have a 27% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. In the next three weeks, they’ll see the Browns, Cardinals, and Bills.