Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges had a miserable showing in the team’s Week 16 road loss to the New York Jets and it resulted in the Samford product being benched in the first half following his second interception of the contest, which was his eighth overall in just 135 total pass attempts. While Hodges was inserted back into Sunday’s game in the second half after quarterback Mason Rudolph suffered an injured shoulder, he failed to produce any scoring drives.
With Hodges now set to start the Steelers Sunday road regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, a game the team needs to win to give them a better shot at making the playoffs, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his Tuesday press conference what all he needs to see this week from Hodges that will let him know that the young quarterback is ready to rebound after having the two starts of the season the last two weeks.
“You know, some questions get answered in stadium,” Tomlin said. “There’s nothing wrong with his preparation. There’s nothing wrong with his approach, his attitude and things of that nature. But the questions that you’re referring to don’t get answered until we get into the stadium. And I can trick myself in terms of seeking comfort and looking for clues and things of that nature, we’re not in that world. We’re going to prepare, he’s going to prepare and we’re gonna put our best foot forward, man, and go play this game and play it to win.”
Tomlin was later asked if Hodges’ most recent interceptions that he’s thrown, six in the last two games, are a product of his actual physical throwing ability, or just a matter of the decisions that he’s making regarding who to throw to. Tomlin quickly cut off the end of the question with a question of his own that was followed by a laugh.
“Does it matter?” Tomlin asked before laughing. “You know, seriously, we’ve got to take care of the football. You can make a bad decision but a ridiculous, awesome throw and it’s irrelevant. You know what I mean? So, I mean that in all sincerity, we’ve got to take care of the football and some of that minutia is less important about intentions relative to performance.”
Tomlin was then asked to comment on the mental component of players such as Hodges attempting to bounce back from two very poor showings as well. He was asked about the true essence of the mental morale, or ability of players to make those plays and what goes into prepping them to be mentally strong and in these types of situations.
“I think, you know, what you’re talking about is somewhat mystical and gray at times,” Tomlin said. “But I think, you know, having a hardcore plan, having a level of consistency in terms of the procedure that is preparation creates a constant that’s an anchor for guys that allows them to build not only preparation, but confidence associated with it as you get closer to game time.
“But ultimately, man, some of that stuff is intrinsic. Some of that is part of who they are and their ability to bounce back, their metal and so forth gets revealed as you get to know them. Ultimately it comes down to how you play in-game and so we’re cognizant and understanding of that.”
We’ll wait and see if Hodges can indeed bounce back Sunday against the Ravens. In essence, you could probably say that Hodges’ NFL career is at stake heading into Sunday’s road game against Baltimore. Regardless, if Hodges doesn’t play well on Sunday and even worse, if he throws an interception or two, he will likely find himself hooked from a second consecutive contest.
The Steelers are preparing quarterback Paxton Lynch to backup Hodges this week in practice and it probably won’t take much negative on Sunday to get the former first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in the game. The Steelers absolutely must win Sunday’s game against the Ravens and then hope they get the necessary help needed in other stadiums in Week 17 so that they can sneak into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
Had Rudolph not gotten injured this past Sunday, he’d likely be the one starting this coming Sunday against the Ravens. In short, Hodges has been given a second life, if you will, and we’ll now have to wait and see how he handles that gift. How many lives do ducks have exactly?