One of the issues that Mason Rudolph had, especially earlier on during his starting tenure, was a tendency to want to be too perfect. If the circumstances were not ideal to throw a deep ball, he would pull the ball down and not pull the trigger.
And when he did start pushing the ball down the field, eventually they started going to the other team, and then he got yanked. He who hesitates is lost, or so it’s said. Or at least loses his starting job. Devlin Hodges? He’s not showing any hesitation. He gets the ball out quickly, or at least gets out of the pocket quickly. His decision-making is clearly accelerated in comparison.
And he’s not gun shy by any means. Nearly a third of his pass attempts on Sunday were deep balls, and he connected on the majority of them, most of those going to Rudolph’s college teammate, James Washington, who’s been loving the past month’s worth of games, and especially perhaps the last week and a half working with his hunting buddy.
“You just go deep and he throws it your way”, Washington told Will Graves of the Associated Press. He added of the rookie slinger, “you never saw him get uptight or anything. He held his composure as well as everyone else. Everyone kept working and I feel like that’s why we were able to come out on top”.
As you’ll recall, the Steelers were trialing 10-0 on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns before coming back to score the next 20 points, managing to put up points on four consecutive drives between the second and third quarters.
Needless to say, Washington played a big role in that offensive outburst. All four of his receptions during the game came on drives that resulted in points, including both touchdowns, one of which was his own 30-yard concentration catch through defensive pass interference.
It may be a bit unfair to say, but many are coming away from the past week and a half observing that he is having the connection with Hodges that he was supposed to have with Rudolph. He and Washington excelled together at Oklahoma State.
For whatever reason, Washington and Hodges are really connecting right now—both on and off the field—and that’s exactly what this offense needed. The combination of the two is providing the spark that is starting to turn things around on that side of the ball, which had been consistently lagging behind.
The Steelers went four straight games heading into Sunday without putting up more than one offensive touchdown. They managed to get two against the Browns. Perhaps they can go for three this time around against the Arizona Cardinals.