There was really only one terrible throw. In a game as important as the Steelers’ showdown against the accounts, in a game as closely contested as this, at a time when every game the Steelers played has so far been adapted to that description, it is enough.
It would not be enough to serve as ammunition for the fishermen who would create controversy over the identity of General Steelers. For this reason, the other three Devlin “Duck” Hodges espousals that were thrown Sunday night were necessary. He made the case for them, even though there were mitigating circumstances.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked immediately after the game if he had planned to replace the generals again, switching back to Mason Rudolph a month after Hodges was installed and Tomlin was not available to discuss it.
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On Tuesday, he was ready to answer – and gave the only sensible answer: He will start Hodges again on Sunday against the Jets, in a game that must be won to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
“I am looking forward to giving him a chance to recover,” Tomlin said in his weekly press conference. “I think it’s reasonable to expect growth from new players as they get exposure. Sometimes exposure can be a negative exposure, as it was in the last game.”
For the Steelers to be this close to the end of their season and the dust from Rudolph makes no sense if the current starter is healthy and available. It smells of panic. Rudolph is a better talent than some, and he should certainly enjoy a better future for Hodges, but his confidence was shattered when he was ready.
Hodges responded by leading the team to a win over the Bengals in relief, then winning starts against the Browns and Cardinals. In his next game, Hodges faced the toughest challenge to date and gave his poorest performance a 17-10 loss to the Bills. He completed 23-of-38 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, but was caught four times.
This last state is the kind that says only part of the truth, as bad as it can be.
Look at each one separately, instead of looking at the impressive set:
Option No 1 – Above the right-hand side of the Hodges at the end of the Steelers’ first possession, with the team facing a third and long situation, easily grabbed by Bill Tre’Davious White. It was a nice game by White, which becomes one of the best corners of the league without feeling it necessary to become one of the league’s biggest mouths, but it was essentially a punt.
White surpassed the boundaries in the Buffalo 25 game. It turned out to be one of the Steelers’ best points in the game.
Option No 2 – The disaster described earlier, Hodges tried to beat White in the distance from near miss and again showed that he did not have the hand to make this game. Whether it was a bad game call or Hodges’ pride, White’s retention and the return of 49 seats completely changed the game.
If you want to say that the game justifies abandoning the Duck experiment, you might have a case for that. But be honest about it.
Option No 3 – Flew into the end zone (and double coverage) in a fourth and 7 games with 1:54 left of the Buffalo 23, the pass was intended for fourth week wide Deon Cain, a Hodges receiver never looked as ready to release. Security Jordan Poure was in the end zone to help and break the ball to Hodges’ release. The Steelers had James James running open to the opposite corner, but I never saw him – because Buffalo again was able to press him with a bell blitz from Taron Johnson.
Buffalo blinks regularly because the Steelers didn’t handle it. This was another example.
Option No 4 – A strong hand from the defense gave the Steelers another chance in the final minute in a binding score, but now they are losing time. Hodges managed to escape the rush to the left of the last pass, but had no one open, no clock, and attempted to fly what was equivalent to Mary’s hail. What was blocked was next to the point.
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Hodges is not an exceptional talent. This is not a player with Tom Brady’s or Kurt Warner’s obviously hidden ability to be ignored or rejected by talent evaluators. His hand is such that the Steelers have to throw many of their own passages from the book when Hodges is in the game. Opponents are aware of what they face and plan against him: overloading the box with defenders, trying to lure him into dangerous shots.
The Steelers did badly against Buffalo. In the first quarter, three defenders rushed when the bills tried to convert a quarter and one into Pittsburgh territory. Quarterback Josh Allen had plenty of time and plenty of opportunities to find a receiver, and that conversion led to the game’s first TD.
When the Steelers had a first and a goal of 10 just before halftime, they put James Conner back in the Wildcat lineup for the second time this season and asked him to make a difficult play-option. A low kick started this game badly, and a naughty transfer to Diontae Johnson – a wideout acts as a tailback? – led to an evil.
And yet, with all of that, aside from Hodges’ tremendous blocking in the third quarter, they were still under a touchdown and had two late chances to tie the game.
Tomlin was asked if Hodge would be in such a close game, though some more mistakes would lead him to follow the same path to the bench as Rudolph did in mid-November.
“I don’t foresee or plan for failure,” Tomlin said. “I predict he’ll do great to meet the challenge.”
This is not the time for the Steelers to radically change. They understand their limitations and have seen most of the obstacles these restrictions create. It will not be easy to overcome them.
It makes no sense, however, to try a completely different path when they are so close to their destination.