Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Tuesday the team’s decision to start quarterback Devlin Hodges on Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns. While the decision to start Hodges over quarterback Mason Rudolph wasn’t an overly surprising one based on what all transpired during the team’s Sunday road win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin was still peppered Tuesday with questions about the choice. Additionally, Tomlin was asked to reveal what kind of expectations he now has for Hodges on Sunday against the Browns.
“You know, there’s not enough plays on his resume to paint with a broad brush in the ways that you suggest,” Tomlin said. “There’s going to be enough pressure on Devlin just performing, so I’m not gonna add to it by talking expectations. I expect him to not kill us.”
In short, Tomlin’s main expectation regarding Hodges on Sunday against the Browns is for him to not to turn the football over, which is something that Rudolph did five times in the Steelers last two games via interceptions. Hodges, by the way, has only thrown one interception in his limited play this season which has included just 40 total pass attempts.
Tomlin talked on Tuesday about how feel played a big role in his decision to switch from Rudolph to Hodges early in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
“I meant what I said after the game,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “I just felt like we needed a spark and so I thought at the quarterback position, by the virtue of the nature of the job, it’s an opportunity to provide that spark. And, you know, he [Hodges] made a play there early on that I thought was significant and kinda energized not only our offensive unit, but our team and our sideline and it was enough for us to get out of that stadium. We’ll see what this week holds.”
Will Tomlin also possess that same feel mindset this Sunday against the Browns should Hodges struggle?
“We’ll see,” Tomlin said.
With Hodges now named the Steelers starter for Sunday that means he’ll get the lion’s share of reps with the first-team offense all this week during practice. Because of that, Tomlin was asked on Tuesday if there’s a way to calculate what those extra first-team reps will mean for the former undrafted quarterback out of Samford.
“There is not,” Tomlin said. “It served him well in LA. But again, when we’re talking about a really young guy, every new day is a new day. And I know that we’re gonna work our tails off to make sure that we build these days in a way that is conducive to a good performance for him.”
Tomlin did indicate Tuesday that the Steelers, as a team, need to do a good job overall of helping Hodges on Sunday against the Browns.
“I think that we’re all capable of helping Devlin,” Tomlin said. “The defense by getting off the field. Our run game by being effective and keeping him in manageable situational down and distances. Our special teams doing a great job of the field position and possession game. We’ll all have a hand in assisting Devlin in playing good football.”
Despite Tomlin hoping that Hodges won’t do anything to kill the team’s chances of winning Sundays home game against the Browns, he did accentuate several positives that the rookie quarterback has shown since May’s rookie minicamp that resulted in him sticking on the 53-man roster after he was brought back following the team trading away quarterback Joshua Dobbs early in the season and starter Ben Roethlisberger being lost for the remainder of the season to an elbow injury right at about the same time
“He’s been really consistent in terms of his approach,” Tomlin said of Hodges. “At every turn he’s proven that those circumstances aren’t too big for him, that he doesn’t act funny in any way. But in terms of painting with a broad brush and characterizing his game, he just hadn’t played enough for me to reasonably do that. Like I said, there’s going to be enough pressure on him just by virtue of what he needs to do for us this week, so I’ve got no intentions of adding to it. We all organizationally, offense, coaches, defense, players, we need to work our tails off to make his job easy this week and that’s how we support him.”
The Steelers Sunday game against the Browns is a big one as there is a lot riding on it from not only an AFC North perspective, but an overall playoff one as well. A win Sunday by the Steelers will put them in prime position to make the playoffs as a Wild Card time while essentially crushing Cleveland’s postseason dreams in the process. Should Hodges play well on Sunday, or at the very least not hurt the team’s chances of winning with his play, he’ll likely remain the starter for the foreseeable future.
If, however, Hodges plays poorly against the Browns, Tomlin has left the door wide open for him to switch back to Rudolph as quickly as he switched from the second-year quarterback.
“We’ll see what this week holds,” Tomlin said Tuesday about the switch at quarterback.