Mark Madden: Nice job, Duck, but Mason Rudolph should be Steelers starting QB |
Mark Madden, Columnist

Mark Madden: Nice job, Duck, but Mason Rudolph should be Steelers starting QB

Mark Madden
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks with Mason Rudolph during the Ravens game Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019 at Heinz Field.

For a third-string quarterback from a small football college who didn’t get drafted, Devlin Hodges has made considerable impact in Pittsburgh.

Between his duck calls, duck T-shirt and duck tweet that included a duck video, Hodges seems ready to establish a duck dynasty.

One obstacle: The moment Mason Rudolph is cleared to play, he should start. Hopefully, that’s the Steelers’ next game, Oct. 28 at home vs. Miami.

That’s no knock on Hodges. He did as well as could be expected in the Steelers’ 24-17 win Sunday at Los Angeles.

Hodges and the offense were greatly buoyed when the defense got the Steelers a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Hodges managed that edge from there, completing 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He had just two completions more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.

Don’t call Canton yet.

Hodges did what he was asked and did it well. But he’s not the quarterback that’s going to help you catch up in the fourth quarter.

Rudolph might not be, either. But he’s got much more talent and pedigree.

Rudolph gives the Steelers a better chance to win, and the remainder of this season provides a needed opportunity to ascertain whether Rudolph is good enough to be Ben Roethlisberger’s successor when the latter retires.

This seems obvious.

But it might not be obvious to Steelers fans, because Hodges is a good story.

It might not be obvious to coach Mike Tomlin, either. Tomlin has long proven absolutely incapable of seeing the big picture. Beating the Chargers might be enough for Tomlin to trot out Hodges against Miami. The Dolphins are the NFL’s worst team, so when Hodges beats the Dolphins, he’s the starter — which would be stupid.

But not to Tomlin. Not to the fans.

BTW, Hodges’ big selling point is being nicknamed “Duck.” If dude had a less colorful moniker, 132 passing yards would make the citizens skeptical, even after a win. But he’s “Duck.” He’s a single-name phenomenon: Tiger, Pele, Madonna, Rudy and Duck.

But Rudy’s coach knew that two plays were enough.

Right now, Hodges is 1-0. He beat Philip Rivers, a surefire Hall of Famer.

If that’s Hodges’ one shining moment, is that so bad?

Let’s say Hodges beats Miami and becomes the starter. It won’t be long before Pittsburgh hates him.

The Steelers still wouldn’t make the playoffs. Someone has to absorb blame. In Pittsburgh, that’s the quarterback. The better the quarterback, the more he’s blamed. Pittsburgh ran off Terry Bradshaw. It will try to do the same to Roethlisberger. (Twitter has a head start.)

If Rudolph is healthy, he must start the rest of the season. When Roethlisberger gets healthy, he must be reinstated as starter next season.

As for Hodges, his performance at Los Angeles definitely increases his prospects for employment next year, whether in Pittsburgh or someplace else.

Hodges has traveled an amazing road. He never figured to play a snap in the NFL, let alone start a game and win. If Roethlisberger and Rudolph are healthy, Hodges is on the practice squad. If they don’t trade Josh Dobbs, Dobbs plays at Los Angeles. If Landry Jones is still in the area code, he gets the nod over Hodges.

But Hodges came. He saw. He quacked.

Hodges deserves mega-credit for, by all accounts, being incredibly prepared for his opportunity. When it came, Hodges did not flinch. His skill set is limited compared to most NFL quarterbacks, but he looked totally at home applying it. Hodges waited for a chance he knew might never come, and made the best of it.

But that’s the problem. That was Hodges’ best. That’s why Rudolph, if he’s available, must play moving forward. That starts with Miami on Oct. 28.

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