Devlin Hodges had a chance tonight to become the first undrafted rookie quarterback to win his first four games…ever? Who knows exactly? Instead, he turned out a generally awful performance. While the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback made a few significant throws, he has continued to make significant mistakes in decision-making, and tonight also added poor accuracy for what was clearly his worst game by a good margin.
He finished completing just 23 of 38 pass attempts for 202 yards. He threw one touchdown pass that was all YAC to James Conner and finished with four interceptions, including two in the end zone in the final couple of minutes in a one-possession game.
It’s worth mentioning that the Buffalo Bills are easily the best defense that Hodges has had to face this year. Other than his brief time against the Baltimore Ravens back in Week Five, he played…the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns without Myles Garrett, and the Arizona Cardinals.
The Bills have the best secondary he’s faced, and that showed. Tre’Davious White picked him off twice by himself on two great plays by the Pro Bowl cornerback. The others were simply bad decisions looking for the end zone.
It’s not just the interceptions, though. His feel in the pocket has been generally average to poor overall, but tonight, it was awful. He was sacked four times, and he was largely responsible for three of them, either because he couldn’t sense the pressure or because he failed to take an obvious checkdown.
That’s not to say that the pass protection was good. Throughout the night, the Bills had Hodges running, and he repeatedly settled for throwing the ball out of bounds, even on third down. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense managed just one sack, though they only attempted 25 passes.
I think this game is an important reminder about the situation the Steelers are in. Hodges has the capability of making some significant throws, but there’s a reason he wasn’t drafted. He has a lot to work on, and we saw most of that tonight. In many ways, it cost them the chance to come back in this game. You can’t score just 10 points in an important home game.
The offense had just 229 total yards. He did connect on a couple of 30-plus-yard passes to James Washington, and Diontae Johnson made a play or two as well. Hodges has talent, and he’s shown it in every game that he’s played. But the defense had been carrying him. He got a boost from the special teams last week.
I think his performance this night leaves open the conversation for Mason Rudolph to return to the lineup if he has been looking better in practice. Mike Tomlin said that he was starting Hodges because he wasn’t killing the team the way Rudolph had during his last full game. Now he has. And now the discussion shifts. The Steelers must win their final two games to control their playoff destiny, and they can’t allow the offense to kill them. Whoever is going to avoid that needs to be under center, period. There’s no bigger factor than that.