John Steigerwald: Losing a franchise QB not an excuse anymore
It can be done.
The Steelers have won two games with quarterbacks who, before being used in an emergency this season, had never thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game.
Devlin Hodges, who was working on his world famous duck calls before being brought in off the street to back up a backup three weeks ago, was asked to do what the guy who preceded him, Mason Rudolph, was asked to do — not screw up — and he came through.
Only being asked to throw the ball 20 times in 2019 is the equivalent of being asked to throw eight or 10 passes in 1989, and he completed 15 of them for 132 yards. Just as Rudolph did on a Monday night against the Bengals, Hodges bored a national TV audience to an early bed time and won a game.
The duck caller is 1-0 as a starter. Of course, every human, who has ever been a quarterback in the first 100 years of the NFL, could have done what he was asked to do, but the Steelers have proven they can win without Ben Roethlisberger.
Let’s not dwell on the fact that the combined record of the two teams they’ve beaten without him is 2-10. With the way the defense played Sunday night and the way the offensive line opened holes for Benny Snell Jr. and James Conner, the Steelers could have beaten better teams than the L.A. Chargers.
And it’s become apparent that losing a franchise quarterback should not be used as an excuse anymore.
The New Orleans Saints are 4-0 without Drew Brees.
The Carolina Panthers are 4-0 without Cam Newton.
The Saints were fortunate to have Teddy Bridgewater, a one-time franchise quarterback, who was a No. 1 draft pick, as a backup, but the Panthers had a guy like Hodges — Kyle Allen, an undrafted free agent in 2018 who started one game last season.
Bridgewater has competed 69% of his passes with seven touchdown passes and two interceptions. You can bet nobody in New Orleans thought the Saints would be undefeated with him as their starter.
Allen has seven touchdown passes and hasn’t thrown an interception yet. It would be hard to make a case for Newton getting the job back when he’s healthy.
The point is losing a franchise quarterback is no longer a death sentence. But the Steelers should also have seen enough to let whoever their quarterback not named Roethlisberger is to open it up a little bit.
And now the question is who gets the job the rest of the season — the guy who’s best at playing not to lose or the guy who shows he’s capable of playing to win?
NBA can’t have it both ways
The NBA woke up late. America’s most woke major professional sports league found itself in the position of having to protect a brutal communist country from being criticized for its absence of freedom and wokeness.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called a Tweet in support of protesters in Hong Kong by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey “regrettable.”
Silver and the league were criticized for being hypocritical because of past comments critical of the U.S. and President Donald Trump by players and coaches that were allowed and even supported.
The Chinese state run TV network canceled two exhibition games and threatened to cut all ties with the Rockets, the country’s most popular team.
Silver was put in a difficult, no-win situation and eventually said he would support any criticism of human rights violations.
But, you know what? Silver was right by trying to keep the Chinese government happy. The NBA is huge in China. So is Nike. There are a lot of feet in China, and that means lots of shoe sales.
The players, coaches and general managers have been happy to take their share of the tens of billions of dollars generated by sales of NBA merchandise and Nike gear.
They can’t have it both ways.
If they really cared about the rights of the Chinese people, they would have “woke” up long ago and refused to play games or make appearances there.
Twitter is easy. Using it to bite the hand that feeds the league that feeds you is dumb. As long as they were willing to take China’s money, Silver was right to tell them to shut up and dribble.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.