Performance over pedigree—That’s the ‘Duck’ Hodges story (Dec. 11)

Rewind back to Oct. 7. The Pittsburgh Steelers were sporting a 1-4 record and the couch potato sound bytes in regards to their reaching the 2019 postseason were gaining in volume. The sparks were flying from the blacksmith’s forge sharpening the blade of the guillotine that most of the Black and Gold fans and local “scribes” (the most “positive” description of local writers that I could find) have been anxiously waiting from Day 1 to drop to sever Mike Tomlin from his position as head coach of the Steelers.

They finally had him where they wanted him. Tomlin was backed into a corner and on the ropes with no possible way out.

Or so they thought.

The Steelers were about to face the Chargers, Dolphins, Colts, Rams and Browns. Except for the hapless and hopeless Dolphins, the Steelers were projected to lose four of those five games. So with the sideline “prophets” and the grim reaper prognosticators looking and sounding like buzzards on a fence, the Steelers were staring at a possible 2-8 record square in the eyeballs. Why? Well, with Ben Roethlisberger out with season-ending elbow surgery, and second-string quarterback Mason Rudolph knocked out in the game against the Ravens on Oct. 6, the Steelers were down to a rookie from Samford University.

Yes, I said Samford, not Stanford.

His name? Devlin “Duck” Hodges. Was that “Duck” as in the waterfowl that we love on the grill, or was that “Duck” as in, you better watch out and get out the way…?

No one knew, not even Tomlin, that a gun-slinging, duck-hunting rookie was about to roll in from the Cypress Swamp of Alabama with guns blazing, ready to take on and defeat anyone, anytime, anywhere. Hodges had no detectable fear to be found. Tomlin was forced to find out the hard way that until Hodges entered the scene, Tomlin’s first choice, Rudolph, was performing more like an assassin discharging friendly fire, shooting his own team in the foot.

Let’s do a comparison. In his rookie season, Roethlisberger threw for 187 yards per game as a first-round draft choice with then-future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis at running back, “fast” Willie Parker also in the backfield, and Hines Ward at the ready at receiver.

On the other hand, “Duck” Hodges has been forced to perform his rookie season with, basically, practice squad players or players with little-to-no experience. Hodges is a “thrilla,” not a “killa.”

Hodges may have his off-days but I can almost guarantee you that he won’t throw four picks in a game, like Rudolph did at Cleveland before Myles Garrett did his infamous helmet swing on Rudolph.

The reason that Hodges won’t perform that poorly is because he has put to bed the old wives tale that pedigree will almost always be better than performance. Pedigree will get your name up in lights, but performance will shine your light on others so that they will be better.

by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier

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