Hodges named Steelers’ starter against Browns

1:28 PM ET

  • Brooke PryorESPN Staff Writer

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    • Previously covered the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star and Oklahoma University for the Oklahoman.

PITTSBURGH — Encouraged by the boost of energy quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges gave the Steelers against the Bengals, coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday that Hodges will start Sunday’s rematch with the Browns.

“We met as a staff, we decided that we’re going to start Duck this week,” Tomlin said. “Really, the decision is clear for us. … I thought he provided us a spark in-game. I’m hopeful that he’s capable of continuing to provide that spark as we step into this stadium.”

Tomlin cautioned, though, that this wasn’t a permanent decision to go with Hodges over Mason Rudolph.

“It means nothing about our intended plans for the foreseeable future or the trajectory of Mason’s career,” Tomlin said. “We’re just not of that mentality. We’re not in a position to be of that mentality. We’re putting pieces together on a week-by-week basis because of the adversity that the game presents.”

But what did Tomlin see of Hodges to make him the starter this week?

“He has not killed us,” Tomlin said.

Sunday will be Hodges’ second career start. He made his first earlier this season playing for a concussed Rudolph against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6, a game the Steelers won 24-17. Hodges completed 15 of 20 attempts for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Tomlin, though, went back to Rudolph after the bye week and scoffed then at the thought of going back to Hodges following Rudolph’s slow start against the Miami Dolphins.

Rudolph never shook off those slow starts and was further hampered by injuries to his surrounding cast. Perhaps most damning, though, was his penchant for turning the ball over. Rudolph had 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions in his time as a starter, including four picks in the loss to the Browns and one in the first half of the Bengals win.

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Ryan Clark reacts to Mike Tomlin announcing his decision to start Devlin Hodges over Mason Rudolph in Week 13 vs. the Browns.

Tomlin said the fight between Rudolph and Myles Garrett in Cleveland was not a factor in the decision to start Hodges.

“It goes beyond just Mason and his performance,” Tomlin said of making the quarterback change. “He’s been in and out of the lineup. Some running backs and offensive linemen have been in and out of the lineup. We miss some guys at receiver, specifically in the last game. The combination of playing without [James] Conner and JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and so maybe some of those negative things have worn away at elements of Mason’s play.

“He hadn’t protected the ball very recently like he did at the early portions of his participation, and I got a lot of patience for young guys but one thing that we need to do is take care of the ball. Those are one of the reasons why we gave Devlin an opportunity in Cincy.”

Going forward, the bar for Hodges is apparently low. Tomlin didn’t set out a list of expectations for the quarterback against Cleveland.

“There’s going to be enough pressure on Devlin performing, so I’m not going to add to it by talking expectations,” Tomlin said. “I expect him to not kill us.”

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