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Insider Only Latest Steelers Buzz: Lean Hodges & Here’s Why

Mike Tomlin putting on a coaching clinic

Somehow, someway Mike Tomlin has his football team in the final wildcard spot with five games to go.

Say what you want about Tomlin’s game management but crisis management is a pivotal trait to succeeding in the NFL and he’s put on a coaching clinic this season. Not only are the Steelers miraculously 6-5 with their quarterback situation and injuries, they’ve won five of six and since week 2, have suffered just one loss by more than four points.

They’re doing all of this with an horrific offense that’s also getting dud seasons from two of their most important offensive players in Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner who have been unreliable on the field as the No. 1’s, have had costly turnovers late in close games, and are currently injured.

What Tomlin is doing this season as one Steelers source says is sticking a middle finger at some of the minority owners who have been trashing him behind the scenes for over a season and a half in trying to push for his exit.

Tomlin’s corny ‘the standard is the standard’ saying has played out this season. He’s done a phenomenal job in motivating this group that no matter who’s on the field, they can compete with anybody. And the buy-in is obviously there.

One situation that has stuck out to me for weeks was when Mason Rudolph got knocked out by Earl Thomas by the Ravens. It was a sickening play where Rudolph looked dead for a couple seconds and there’s Tomlin on the sidelines moments later pounding the shoulder pads of Devlin Hodges to pump him up. He has his football team willing to run through a wall for him.

It may all finally come crashing down in the final five games, but somehow, someway with this anemic offense the Steelers go into Thanksgiving with more than a pulse of being in the playoff picture.


RUDOLPH OR HODGES?

Either option is an awful option for Mike Tomlin this week.

Rudolph is just an abysmal quarterback and whoever those scouts are that had a first-round grade on him, they might need a new profession. As stated after the Browns game, when you know, you know and we already know there’s nothing here with Rudolph.

Rudolph in his first couple run of games got away with things in playing the game manager role because he wasn’t turning the ball over, but with more tape on him, it’s a whole different ball game. Combined with poor footwork, the lack of presence in the pocket is as below average as it can get and the poor ball placement on big boy throws is at a level if you go watch a Cal U football game on a Saturday afternoon.

“I just felt like our offense needed a spark,” Tomlin said. “Mason wasn’t doing enough. Duck came in and provided us a little spark, made a couple plays. We’ll see what next week holds next week.”

That was about the nicest thing Tomlin would say about Hodges’ contributions.

Anytime Tomlin speaks about Hodges, he talks like he thinks he’s a joke.

Going into Los Angeles and winning didn’t sway Tomlin’s opinion on anything about Hodges and at least on the surface, Tomlin didn’t look like a coach who saw Hodges coming in vs the Bengals as nothing more than pulling your starting goaltender in the second period of a 3-0 game.

So who should get call vs the now surging Browns?

The Steelers should lean Hodges for this reason:

With how good this defense is, especially in the takeaway department to sway games in the Steelers’ direction, you go with the quarterback who gives you the best chance to produce those pivotal 1-2 big plays.

The Steelers can no longer die on the hill that Rudolph is the obvious option because he takes care of the ball.

Where Hodges gives the Steelers a jolt is better placement on intermediate to deep balls, which opens the door for the higher percentage of hitting on the big play like what happened with the 79 yard TD pass to James Washington.

Tomlin also downplayed Hodges contributions on touchdown pass to Washington, which I didn’t get. This was a pass that hit Washington in stride with a ton of open space in front of him as he was untouched to the Bengals the 30 yard line.

The opportunity to hit on a big play or two is why the Steelers should be lean Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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