It’s nigh impossible for a quarterback to throw four interceptions in a game and not be knocked for having ball security issues. There are obviously instances in which the interception blame lies on the receiver, or perhaps even a missed penalty, but four in one game is a tough sell.
And every one of Devlin Hodges’ four interceptions thrown on Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills were squarely on the throws and decisions that he made. When Mason Rudolph had a similar game for the Pittsburgh Steelers a little over a month ago, he got the short-leash treatment.
With two games left to play and the Steelers needing to win both in order to control their fate for the sixth seed, they can’t afford to have these issues at the quarterback position right now, and for the time being, head coach Mike Tomlin is banking on Hodges being able to rebound from that bad game.
At the same time, he wasn’t pulling as many punches during his pre-game press conference yesterday as he did in the aftermath of the game, during which he credited the Bills for making plays on his four interceptions, and not even acknowledging Hodges’ role in that process.
“The protection and the safeguarding of the football is first and foremost”, he told reporters yesterday. “We didn’t do a good enough job of it, collectively. Duck didn’t do a good enough job of it as a quarterback. But we’ll move forward and hopefully learn some significant lessons from that experience”.
Still, that’s about as tame a criticism one can give to a quarterback after being faulted for throwing four interceptions in a close game, during which the Steelers never trailed by more than seven points. It’s apparent from the stat sheet that he “didn’t do a good enough job” of protecting the football.
And that also includes yet another strip sack on a play on which Hodges probably had no business taking a sack, had he exhibited a better feel for the pressure and pocket presence. In a relatively brief window, he has already been strip-sacked three times, though he’s been fortunate to have had teammates recover it each time. Had that not been the case, we might be having a different conversation.
There is no single factor more important to the Steelers’ success for the remainder of the season, whether that includes the postseason or not, than minimizing giveaways on the offensive side of the ball, and that responsibility falls primarily on Hodges’ shoulders.
Tomlin said that he expects the rookie quarterback to exhibit growth in the wake of this unwelcome experience, and anticipates a better game from him against the New York Jets. If that’s not what he gets, then we may see another change at the quarterback position, for better or worse.