The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the offense be more effective with Devlin Hodges under center?
The Hodges sector is certainly getting their wish this year. Not only did he end up on the 53-man roster—which I’m assuming was the ceiling pretty much everybody expected for him—not only did he end up as the backup, he’s now been chosen to start a game. He already started one game, but that was due to injury.
And this time, he’s had another several weeks of preparation and growth. He has three games of experience. He’s going to go through a whole week of practice as the starter again, which is extremely valuable, and something that he only got to do once before. And I believe, if memory serves, Mason Rudolph had even returned to practice at that point, but simply was still in the concussion protocol, so was unable to play.
Even if the Steelers still don’t have JuJu Smith-Schuster back yet for Sunday—it’s not looking good for James Conner, either—this will still be the best test yet for us to see who Hodges is, a home game against a quality defense, even if the Cleveland Browns are minus Myles Garrett for reasons that don’t need to be explained.
The question is, how will the offense look with him under center? He was the beneficiary of a good run game when he started against the Los Angeles Chargers. They ran well for him when he played in the second half on Sunday.
How will he throw the ball? How will his pocket presence be? Can he step up in the pocket? What about his decision-making? And even more important—will his receivers make plays for him?