It’s D Day, folks. And if you need it to stand for something, then it might as well be Duck, because the Pittsburgh Steelers desperately need Devlin Hodges to fly today. While they don’t control their own fate, it would be awfully hard for the Steelers to advance if they fail to unseat the Baltimore Ravens, who enter this season finale with no incentive to win, beyond the mere joy of winning and beating a rival.
The play of the quarterback position has been the primary source of grief for the Steelers this season. Even with Ben Roethlisberger under center for six quarters, the offense only mustered one offensive touchdown, and that was a rushing score.
It hasn’t much mattered if it was Hodges or Mason Rudolph, because both have struggled, and the tail end of their plights have consisted of a barrage of turnovers that have doomed otherwise competent performances from the rest of the team.
If they can at least get a competent level of play from Hodges, while protecting the football—they have allowed at least one giveaway in every single game this season—then they have a chance to beat a number one seed that will be resting half a dozen key starters or more.
It won’t be easy, though, unless they can get something out of a running game that will yet again exclude James Conner, who at this point has missed roughly half of the season if you include the time missed during games.
Cobbling together some effective combination on the ground between Benny Snell, Kerrith Whyte, and Jaylen Samuels against a front that will probably be absent Brandon Williams is a possibility, and they will need it to open up the passing game.
Lamar Jackson will not be on the field, but it will still be imperative for the front seven to contain the quarterback in the running game with Robert Griffin III in the game, who is being given his first opportunity to start a game in three years, and will certainly be motivated to play his best.
There is some good news, as Mark Andrews is not expected to play, but that simply means a greater opportunity for Hayden Hurst, who probably has as much skill as a receiver as Andrews, but largely due to injuries early in his career fell down the depth chart, despite being the higher draft pick.
Unfortunately, my final key to the game is the Steelers’ pass protection, of which the quarterback is a part. Hodges needs to figure out what he’s doing behind the line of scrimmage, but more conventionally, the Steelers have been struggling with diagnosis and assignment, especially in the past couple of weeks. If they can’t even give Hodges time to work, this will be a long day.