Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph may be young, game-managing quarterbacks for the Steelers, but here is one massive trait that makes Hodges the better option.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had a tough decision to make in Week 12 against the Bengals. Though he reportedly had a first-round grade on Mason Rudolph coming out of the 2018 draft, the second-year quarterback wasn’t getting the job done against the Bengals.
In the first half of the game against Cincinnati, Rudolph was able to muster up just 3 points against the league’s worst defense. It was just after the half that Tomlin decided to make the switch to undrafted rookie, Devlin Hodges.
As you know, Hodges made some plays, and helped lead the Steelers to victory. From there, Tomlin stuck with the hot hand against Cleveland, and his choice paid off.
Rudolph and Hodges are very different quarterbacks. Rudolph is more of a traditional pocket passer with ideal size for the position (6’5”, 235 lbs), while Hodges is on the smaller side (6’1”, 210) with more mobility. While other differences separate these two signal-callers none is bigger than their willingness to throw the ball down the field.
Rudolph excelled at this in college – averaging 9.4 yards per attempt in his four-year career at Oklahoma State. However, things took a drastic turn for the worse in the NFL.
Whether it was because of conservative play-calling or intimidation from NFL defenses, Rudolph has averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt this year. Over his last few starts, he seemed to check the ball down as much as ever – ultimately restricting the Steelers offense from putting up big offensive performances.
On the other hand, Devlin Hodges has not been afraid to sling the ball. His 8.7 yards per attempt are better than all but one quarterback with at least 60 pass attempts this season. Against the Browns this week in a must-win game, Hodges showed poise at times and a willingness to air it out down the field.
While neither quarterback has had particularly impressive numbers in other areas, you can usually tell a lot about a quarterback by his yards per attempt. Here is how Hodges and Rudolph have fared so far compared to some good NFL quarterbacks:
Passing yards per attempt this season:
Devlin Hodges: 8.7
Dak Prescott: 8.5
Patrick Mahomes: 8.5
Russell Wilson: 8.3
Deshaun Watson: 8.1
Lamar Jackson: 7.9
… Mason Rudolph: 6.2
Hodges only has 61 attempts, but he’s looking downfield. Mason wasn’t cutting it. #Steelers
— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) December 2, 2019
Surprisingly, Ryan Tannehill is currently the only quarterback averaging more passing yards per attempt this season than Devlin Hodges. While we shouldn’t read too much into a two-start sample size from the undrafted quarterback, we can see that he is not afraid to make plays down the field when given the chance.
Obviously, offensive play-calling can be a factor on quarterback performance. While Randy Fichtner is trying to protect his young players with conservative gameplans, he doesn’t allow for a lot of opportunities down the field.
Fortunately, one Steelers quarterback has found a way to overcome conservative calls and limited pass attempts – all while playing without weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.
Devlin Hodges is clearly the right answer for the Steelers moving forward. Both he and Rudolph still have a lot of growing to do, but the one clear trait that separates these two quarterbacks is their willingness to throw the football down the field. Let’s hope Hodges continues to make plays tp help out this ailing offense.