PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are sticking with rookie quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Hodges will make his fourth straight start on Sunday when the Steelers (8-6) visit the New York Jets (5-9). Hodges threw four interceptions in a 17-10 loss to Buffalo last weekend, including picks on each of Pittsburgh's final two drives. Tomlin said the undrafted rookie free agent — who is 3-1 as a starter — had earned the right to bounce back.
“It’s reasonable to expect him to learn from those negative experiences and apply it to this next opportunity and hopefully not make those same mistakes twice,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin pointed out his decision was much in line with his thinking after Mason Rudolph's bumpy night in a loss to Cleveland on Nov. 14, a game in which Rudolph tossed four interceptions before getting into a brawl with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett that ended when Garrett ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit the quarterback in the head with it. Rudolph started the next week against Cincinnati but was pulled early in the second half in favor of Hodges, who threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to James Washington on his third snap to spark Pittsburgh to a victory.
“Mason had a tough game on the road against Cleveland, and we gave him an opportunity to rebound,” Tomlin said. “We’ll give (Hodges) an opportunity to respond. There needs to be growth and development with that.”
Tomlin didn't detail whether he would keep Hodges on a short leash should he struggle, saying simply “I don't anticipate or plan for failure. I anticipate on him responding to the challenge.”
Hodges could get some help if wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is able to return from a knee injury that's forced him to miss the past four games. Smith-Schuster was on track to return last week before aggravating the injury in practice. Tomlin said Smith-Schuster will practice this week and his progress will determine his availability. Tight end Vance McDonald remains in the concussion protocol after getting hurt in a win over Arizona two weeks ago.
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