While Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced earlier today his intentions to start Devlin Hodges at quarterback, he also made it abundantly clear that that decision was not an indictment of Mason Rudolph, nor the quarterback’s far or immediate future, calling the decision one to put them in the best position to win Sunday’s game.
“It means nothing about our intended plans for the foreseeable future, or the trajectory of Mason’s career or what have you”, he told reporters earlier today during his pre-game press conference. “We’re just not of that mentality. We’re not in the position to be of that mentality. We’re putting pieces together on a week-by-week basis because of the adversity that the game presents with players being available to us or not available to us. We’re singularly focused on winning this game, of putting ourselves in position to win this game”.
Rudolph, the team’s 2018 third-round draft pick, had been starting when healthy since Ben Roethlisberger went down in the middle of the second game of the season. The Oklahoma State product by and large had been playing smart and making good decisions, but struggled greatly in recent weeks, throwing five interceptions in the past six quarters.
Tomlin pulled him one drive into the second half, installing Hodges, who helped the offense come back. The real spark was an impressive catch-and-run by James Washington for a 79-yard touchdown that allowed the team to retake the lead.
The head coach said that the combination of Rudolph’s inability to protect the ball and the spark that the offense received when Hodges came in were the deciding factors heading into Cleveland. “It might not necessarily mean anything negative in terms of Mason, the overall trajectory of his career, or what he’s even going to mean to us next week”, he said.
“We’ll see where we are after this game”, he added. “Really, we have no intended plans beyond this one. We’ve got to see who’s available to us in terms of this game, put that group together, and in some cases, learn what they’re capable of doing”.
While he says this, you typically don’t make a change of this nature without understanding that it can have at least a multiple-game impact. If Hodges continues to provide that ‘spark’ that Tomlin talked about, it’s going to be difficult for Rudolph to get back on the field.
Of course, given the circumstances, it’s entirely possible that we see a back-and-forth at the quarterback position. These are two novices, having no NFL experience prior to this season, and thrust into the spotlight due to injury. There is no incumbent involved here. That makes it easier to take the week to week approach that seems inevitable from this point forward.