Quarterback Duck Hodges named Steelers’ starter for Browns game

PITTSBURGH – Encouraged by the boost of energy quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges gave the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday Hodges would be the starter in Sunday’s rematch with the Cleveland Browns.

“We met as a staff, we decided that we’re going to start Duck this week.” Tomlin said. “Really, the decision is clear for us … I thought he provided us a spark in-game. I’m hopeful that he’s capable of continuing to provide that spark as we step into this stadium.”

Tomlin cautioned, though, that this wasn’t a permanent decision for the rest of the season.

Steelers’ quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges was 5 of 11 for 118 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. AP Photo/Frank Victores

“It means nothing about our intended plans for the foreseeable future or the trajectory of Mason’s career,” Tomlin said. “We’re just not of that mentality. We’re not in a position to be of that mentality. We’re putting pieces together on a week-by-week basis because of the adversity that the game presents.”

But what did Tomlin see of Hodges to make him the starter this week?

“He has not killed us,” Tomlin said.

Sunday will be Hodges’ second career start. He earned his first earlier this season playing for a concussed Rudolph against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6, a game the Steelers won 24-17. Hodges completed 15 of 20 attempts for 132 yards and had one touchdown and one interception. Tomlin, though, went back to Rudolph after the bye week and scoffed then at the thought of going back to Hodges following Rudolph’s slow start against the Miami Dolphins.

Rudolph never shook off those slow starts and was further hampered by injuries to his surrounding cast. Perhaps most damning, though, was his penchant for turning the ball over. Rudolph had 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions in his time as a starter including four in the loss to the Browns and one in the first half of the Bengals win. Tomlin also added that the fight between Rudolph and Myles Garrett in Cleveland was not a factor in the decision to go with Hodges.

“It goes beyond just Mason and his performance,” Tomlin said of making the quarterback change. “He’s been in and out of the lineup. Some running backs and offensive linemen have been in and out of the lineup. We miss some guys at receiver specifically in the last game. The combination of playing without [James] Conner and JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and so maybe some of those negative things have worn away at elements of Mason’s play.

“He hadn’t protected the ball very recently like he did at the early portions of his participation and I got a lot of patience for young guys, but one thing that we need to do is take care of the ball. Those are one of the reasons why we gave Devlin an opportunity in Cincy.”

Going forward, the bar for Hodges is apparently low. Tomlin didn’t set out a list of expectations for the quarterback against Cleveland.

“There’s going to be enough pressure on Devlin performing, so I’m not going to add to it by talking expectations,” Tomlin said. “I expect him to not kill us.”

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