Outside of the quarterback position, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a very talented 53-man roster right now that can compare favorably with nearly any other team in the league. It’s just that that quarterback position is so damn important, and anybody who thinks they’ve been getting adequate play from either Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges is fooling themselves with the mirage of an above-the-line defense erasing most of the warts.
That they are even in position to reach the postseason with two games remaining in a season in which Ben Roethlisberger only played six quarters and did not throw a single touchdown pass is quite remarkable, but if they are going to get much further, they still need to get more for those who are throwing the ball.
Particularly in the middle of the field, in intermediate spaces. That is what ESPN selected as the Steelers’ fatal flaw, the thing that will ultimately kill them if they fail to win it all this year. Not only has it been Hodges, but Rudolph as well, who has not only avoided that area of the field but has also struggled when doing so.
Like Rudolph, Hodges loves to keep it short, or to go long when he’s not. According to their numbers, Hodges by far has the largest percentage of passes that travel within five yards of the line of scrimmage among all players who have thrown at least 100 passes this season.
43.6 percent of his passes are short passes. That’s 10 percent more than the next closest, Nick Foles. And he also throws the ball down the field 13.7 percent of the time, the same frequency with which Rudolph went long.
But when Hodges does throw in the intermediate area, he doesn’t do well, posting a quarterback rating of 66.5, which ranked 38th in the league this season. Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, he completed six of 11 attempts on intermediate passes for 54 yards and an interception.
A quarterback who fails to usage a large portion of the field the vast majority of the time not only great limits his options but also limits the amount of real estate that defenses have to defend if they know that you’re not going to be looking to go to that area.