PITTSBURGH — On Tuesday, the Steelers re-signed quarterback Devlin Hodges to their practice squad, bringing back one of the most popular players that suited up for the Black and Gold this preseason.
Hodges originally joined the team as a try-out to rookie minicamp after going undrafted out of FCS Samford, but first made the 90-man roster and then made an impression when he got an opportunity in the preseason. The champion duck caller also made himself a household name with his underdog story and down-to-earth roots.
Hodges was one of the team’s final cuts, but after trading third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville, the Steelers brought Hodges back. He announced the signing on social media with a graphic of a duck wearing his No. 6 Steelers jersey, and the fanbase quickly latched on with thousands of likes and hundreds of shares.
— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) September 10, 2019
Steelers Now and other members of the media caught up with Hodges after his first practice back with the team on Wednesday. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
SN: What has it been like having the fan base appreciate you the way they have and welcome you back in that way?
Hodges: “It’s awesome. I never thought I’d tweet a little cartoon with a Steelers jersey and get all of the reactions and stuff I had. Yeah, it’s awesome to have a good fanbase, even behind guys like me, who are the third team quarterback and practice squad guy. It just shows that the fans really care about just everyone here and the organization.”
“When they cut you, did they say, ‘you know what, we like you, but you know stay around if something happens. Is that how it went?
“Yeah, they said I did a good job this preseason, and just said hey, you need to go back and workout. They were like, you never know what can happen. I’m sure that a lot of people say that, and I didn’t think that it would happen so quick and so soon. I didn’t think I would be back here just a week later. It was a nice little week home, but I’m definitely glad to be back and be around the group of guys that we got in this locker room.”
“What’d you do at home? Did you relax? Or did you kind of just workout?”
“I worked out a time or two, but really with everything going on I just kind of cleared my mind. You know, I have kind of been through a lot. Just as far as going from the undrafted guy, to making a team on a trial, and being here all camp and making a name for myself. It was just a good time to sit down and clear my mind and think about, you know, what are some options that could come up and what I’ll do. But as soon as I got the call from Pittsburgh, that they want me back, I didn’t think twice about it.”
SN: “Are you running scout team?”
“Yeah, I’m running scout team and I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t get better running the scout team. You’re still competing each and every day. It might not be plays that we run, but just kind of learning football, I can get better each and every day.”
On the pace you’re on here, you’ll be starting by November?
“Easy, easy, easy! I’m just taking it one day at a time and I just want to compete and give the defense a good look. I mean, honestly, I try to go out there each and every play and try to pick apart our defense. I think that’s one way I can get better and will help the defense, if I can do that and give them something to watch and learn from. I’m just glad to be back, you know, playing football. I love football and everything about it. Just to be in the locker room and the camaraderie of the team, I just enjoy it all.”
Being practice squad is not the active, but you go to the meetings, and you’re around it. It seems like a natural transition to set you up for your future.
“Yeah, I mean I’m the number three quarterback. It doesn’t matter if I’m on the practice squad or number three. I go to all the meeting and I learn. I know all of the installs that we put in. I know the game plan each week, I mean I’m still involved just like I was when I was here before I left and I’m just another active quarterback.”
First practice, Ben isn’t practicing. Do you get more reps that way?
“Yeah, it’s nice. I remember them telling me before I left, they were like, ‘On Wednesdays, Ben doesn’t practice a lot, so the other guys will get a lot.’
When I got here Monday night, I was like well, we are off Tuesday and Wednesday is first practice. I might get to practice a lot. It was awesome to just jump back in where I left off and I just really enjoyed it.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers Announce Donation to Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation
The Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster have announced a $10,000 donation to the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation, the latest installment in their Social Justice Grant program.
The @steelers announced donations to @ryanshazierfund from @TeamJuJu with a matching contribution by the team as part of the #Steelers’ Social Justice Grant program to help support community efforts.— Steelers Community Relations (@SteelersCR) January 27, 2021
📝: https://t.co/sWMPRrI7U7 pic.twitter.com/niwPtQrmry
Smith-Schuster donated $5,000, a contribution which the Steelers organization matched.
Shazier’s trials and tribulations are well-documented, having suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.
The former Pro Bowler inspired millions throughout his recovery journey, and has turned his misfortune into an opportunity to help others, starting his foundation in November.
“My foundation is about people dealing with spinal cord issues. I dealt with the issue myself. I understand how much support and care you need for those with spinal cord issues,” Shazier told Steelers.com. “Sometimes people don’t get the right amount of care or support or rehab they need. I started this to give them more support, the caregivers more support and help them get more rehab. You always have to do some kind of rehab when injured. For spinal cord, usually you only get 30 sessions of rehab. That’s like trying to teach your kid to walk again in 30 sessions. That is almost impossible.”
For Shazier, it is extra special to have a former Steeler teammate in Smith-Schuster and the organization supporting his cause.
“I am truly thankful for this,” Shazier told Steelers.com. “It means a lot. It lets you know the relationships you built while playing with guys, guys who are from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, really mean something. You have relationships that go beyond football.”
“This doesn’t just mean a lot to mean personally, though. It means a lot because it’s going to help so many people who are going through the same thing I have gone through. JuJu has firsthand experience seeing what I have gone through when we played together. It’s amazing to have someone like that, someone who was a teammate not just support me, but support others.”
Selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Shazier was selected to two Pro Bowls over his four-year career, tallying 299 combined tackles, 24 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven interceptions.
Report: Steelers Interview Former Packers OL Coach James Campen
The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly interviewing veteran offensive line coach James Campen for their vacancy at the same position, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.
Campen is most known for his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, where he served as the club’s offensive line coach from 2007 to 2018. He additionally served as Green Bay’s run game coordinator in 2018, and won Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers in 2012.
He was also the associate head coach and offensive line coach under Freddie Kitchens with the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
Campen was most recently the offensive line coach for the Los Angeles Chargers last season under former head coach Anthony Lynn, but was not retain when Lynn was fired.
The Steelers are looking to fill the vacancy left by former offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed following the 2020 season.
Pittsburgh officially announced the promotion of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator on Monday, even though reports indicated head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to first hire the team’s next offensive line coach.
Campen is just the second reported candidate the Steelers have interviewed for the opening. They also reportedly spoke to Detroit offensive line coach Hank Fraley, who has since been retained by new Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
The Steelers’ next offensive line coach will have their hands full from the jump, as they will be tasked with righting an aging unit that produced the league’s worst rushing attack in 2020.
Report: Former Steelers OL Coach Shaun Sarrett Joining LA Chargers
Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett is reportedly joining the Los Angeles Chargers as their assistant offensive line coach, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Sarrett, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed by Pittsburgh following the 2020 season.
Lackluster play along the offensive line was one of the Steelers’ greatest obstacles in 2020, as the team finished with the league’s worst rushing offense averaging an abysmal 3.6 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh did protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger well, but he rarely faced pressure with the Steelers’ quick-strike passing game, likely by design given the offensive line’s limitations.
Sarrett spent the last nine season in Pittsburgh, taking over for his mentor Mike Munchak as offensive line coach in 2019. Prior, he had served as an offensive assistant (2012-17) and assistant offensive line coach (2018).
The Steelers have reportedly interviewed a pair of candidates to replace Sarrett thus far, most recently speaking with former long-time Green Bay Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday.