The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The passing offense will be stronger overall with Devlin Hodges than it had been with Mason Rudolph.
Explanation: While Mason Rudolph was known as a successful downfield passer in college, he has been somewhat gunshy about pulling the trigger deep in the early portions of his starting career, perhaps worried about making mistakes. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner essentially confirmed that Rudolph had the green light to pull the trigger at times and was passing over the option.
Even Ben Roethlisberger described Hodges, who passed for nearly 15,000 yards in college, as fearless, and he said as much himself yesterday when speaking to reporters. He’s not afraid to throw the ball around. Fichtner said that he’s never seen a pass he didn’t like.
In other words, we should expect to see Hodges attempting passes that, by and large, Rudolph wasn’t yet willing to himself, which will have the inevitable effect of making the passing game more diverse, and less predictable.
There will still be the short passing game, though without Jaylen Samuels perhaps there will be fewer passes to the running backs and behind the line of scrimmage, but with Hodges’ accuracy, the intermediate and deep parts of the field will be more in play than before.
While it’s likely true that Hodges will be more open to a wider variety of passes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the results will be better. He is a generally accurate passer, but as we’ve seen in the preseason, he is also far from risk-averse.
During that exhibition period, he put a lot of ball in play in very tight windows. Against preseason-level defenders, these were simply completed passes with little yards after the catch. Against a starting defense, they could be incompletions, or even interceptions.
Hodges did have one interception already on Sunday on an ill-advised pass that he was fortunate to have scrubbed from his record due to a defensive holding penalty.