PITTSBURGH — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made official what seemed clear after Sunday’s win against the Browns: Devlin “Duck” Hodges will continue to be the starting quarterback for this week’s matchup in Arizona.
“Going on the road is something we respect, especially when you’re working with a young QB,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “Duck will continue to be our quarterback again this week. He’s performed well in hostile environments, but he just doesn’t have a big sample size.
“Like what I saw in L.A. I liked what I saw in the second half in Cincinnati, but he’ll be moving now into roughly his seventh quarter of road work. We respect it, we’ve got to prepare that way in preparation for our offensive unit.”
Hodges made his first career start against the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 13, playing for a concussed Mason Rudolph, but the crowd at Dignity Health Sports Park was overwhelmingly pro-Pittsburgh. Hodges then took over for Rudolph on the road in Cincinnati two weeks ago, but the crowd for the then-winless Bengals wasn’t very hostile. His first true road test, then, figures to be this weekend at State Farm Stadium against the Cardinals.
By giving him the start yet again, Tomlin continues to show confidence in his rookie undrafted quarterback. Tomlin didn’t treat Hodges any differently in the week leading up to his second career start, and he doesn’t plan to change that anytime soon.
“I told Duck I had a lot of confidence in his abilities and his preparation and his talent, so I wanted to display that confidence by not talking him to death, not having a bunch of additional meetings and things of that nature,” Tomlin said. “I wanted to display that confidence by going about our routine. Not only confidence in him, but confidence in our preparation process, how we go about our business of game prep.
“He’s the starting quarterback. We’re interacting with him in the ways that we interact with a starting quarterback in preparation for a game.”
Hodges comes into this week’s game after a solid performance against the Browns. He competed 14 of 21 attempts for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Tomlin specifically pointed to a sequence just before halftime, including the two-minute drive Hodges orchestrated just before the half, as a pivotal point in the 20-13 win against the Browns. Hodges threw the ball five times, capped with a perfectly placed touchdown throw to James Washington to tie the score at halftime after starting out in a 10-0 hole.
“Largely, I thought Duck did an awesome job of taking care of the football,” Tomlin said, “but that was one instance where he needed to be aggressive and work the ball down the field and he did and was able to take care of the ball and we were able to score.”
Hodges helped the team to another touchdown after halftime, including the completion of a 44-yard pass to Washington.
“I thought that sequence of events, 17 points or what have you,” Tomlin said, “was significant in terms of how the game unfolded and really was pivotal in terms of the overall trajectory of the second half.”