The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen enough from rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges where, provided that he plays well enough, they’re not going to have him looking over his shoulder constantly worrying about his job. While they inform him every Tuesday morning that he is going to start, it’s clear that they will be the case unless he really bottoms out, in which case he’ll be pulled mid-game, as Mason Rudolph was.
When Mike Tomlin first named him the starter for the Cleveland Browns game and was asked for the rationale behind that, he said, “he didn’t kill us”. Generally, and for the most part, the rookie had been doing well in protecting the football and being, as Tomlin said, “thoughtfully aggressive” only when the opportunity arose.
As long as he wasn’t killing the team, he would keep playing. He did kill the team on Sunday with his four interceptions, but he’s saved up enough good faith that he’s being given the opportunity to start again. And what does he want to go out there and do?
“I don’t want to kill the defense, I don’t want to kill the team”, he told reporters yesterday during his media availability session, from a transcript provided by the team’s media department. “We always say if we take care of the football, we can win the football game. It is just going back and taking care of the
football and having fun and playing the game”.
That means not making the risky throws in vulnerable situations. If you’re going to make the throw, know that you can put it where only your guy can get it. That’s what he did the week before on Diontae Johnson’s two-yard touchdown pass, and on the number of deep balls he’s been finding James Washington on.
Over the past several games, make no mistake, Hodges has compiled a nice little highlight reel for himself of some really quality throws. His arm ability was the primary reason that he even made it out of rookie minicamp, after all, and it’s taken him this far.
We know that he can make the throws that need to be made. What we don’t know is if he can handle the pressure and consistently make the right decisions and avoid the mistakes that cost games, especially when presented with adversity in-game, such as the defense not playing up to its usual standards.
The Steelers have only scored more than one offensive touchdown in one of Hodges’ games. He hasn’t put up more than 20 points in any game. There’s a reason they didn’t send any skill position players to the Pro Bowl this year. This is not a good unit.
Which is why it’s so important that whoever is under center is not killing them.