Steelers coach Mike Tomlin turned back to rookie Devlin "Duck" Hodges as his starting quarterback with seemingly little public conviction this week, although the move was well received throughout the organization, sources said.
Mason Rudolph's propensity for turnovers was undermining the team's chances to win, and the staff hopes that Hodges's ability to scramble and make plays opens up an offense that has been stifled for much of the season. Injuries to running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster have complicated matters, and Hodges' improvisational skills may be at a premium as the Steelers play critical games against the Browns and Bills the next two weeks.
Some within the organization were surprised that Tomlin did not stick with Hodges longer after he won a game in relief of Rudolph earlier this season; both quarterbacks were rushed into duty due to Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending elbow injury. Hodges brings a different energy to the huddle and plays with a carefree confidence that immediately endeared the undrafted free agent to coaches and teammates.
However, there are some concerns about Hodges' ability to push the ball down field (Rudolph has a much bigger arm), especially with winter upon us and the wind and cold a real factor in the AFC North. Arm strength was not one of the strong suits in his scouting report, and could be a limiting factor for the undrafted free agent. Otherwise, Hodges's skillset has earned some comparisons to Gardner Minshew within the Steelers organization; Minshew had a strong half-season of work for the Jaguars as a rookie sixth-round pick before veteran Nick Foles was given the staring job back after returning from injury.