Coach Mike Tomlin's announcement today during his weekly news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was highlighted by his decision to treat Devlin Hodges the same way he treated Mason Rudolph.
After Rudolph threw four interceptions in a 21-7 loss to the Browns in Cleveland, Tomlin stuck with him and started him in the team's next game, which was in Cincinnati against the Bengals. And so it will be that after Hodges threw four interceptions in the Steelers' loss to the Bills on Sunday night at Heinz Field, Tomlin said he will stick with him as the starter on Sunday against the New York Jets.
"The protection and safeguarding of the football is first and foremost," said Tomlin in reference to the Steelers' 17-10 loss to the Bills. "We didn't do a good enough job of it collectively. Duck didn't do a good enough job of it as a quarterback, but we'll move forward and hopefully learn some significant lessons from that experience.
"Duck will start at quarterback this week," continued Tomlin. "I look forward to giving him an opportunity to rebound. I think it's reasonable to expect growth from young players as they get exposure. Sometimes that exposure can be negative exposure, like his experience in the last game, but exposure is a tool for growth, particularly at the quarterback position. I think it's reasonable to expect him to learn from those negative experiences from last Sunday night and apply it to this next opportunity and really, hopefully, to not make those same mistakes twice."
Sunday will be Hodges' fifth start of the season and his fourth in a row since Tomlin made the switch from Rudolph early in the second half of the Nov. 24 game against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Before the game against the Bills, Hodges had thrown two interceptions on 60 attempts in his starts (interception percentage of 3.3). When the game against the Bills is included, Hodges has thrown six interceptions in 88 attempts during his starts, an interception percentage of 6.8 in those games.
"We've been in a similar circumstance this year," said Tomlin about his decision to stick with Hodges against the Jets. "Mason (Rudolph) had a tough game on the road against Cleveland, and we gave him an opportunity to respond and rebound from that performance the subsequent week in Cincinnati. So we'll proceed with Duck. We'll give him an opportunity to respond, and there needs to be growth and development from that. It's reasonable to expect it. I'm looking forward to a good week's practice, not only from him but from us collectively."