Steelers: Did Hodges Take the Starting Job From Rudolph?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a decision to make at quarterback.
Devlin "Duck" Hodges may be the Steelers' new starter when they host the Cleveland Browns in a pivotal AFC North matchup this weekend. Hodges came off the bench Sunday to spark Pittsburgh to a 16-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, throwing for 118 yards and a touchdown.
Mason Rudolph was ineffective during Sunday's first half before being benched. Last year's third-round pick, who was seen as a possible Ben Roethlisberger successor, was 8-of-16 for 85 yards and one interception.
It has been an especially difficult period for Rudolph since the Steelers-Browns brawl in Week 11. Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett struck Rudolph over the head with a helmet during the melee, resulting in Garrett's indefinite suspension. The controversy surrounding the incident took on another layer during Garrett's hearing with the NFL, when he accused Rudolph of using a racial slur during the brawl.
While expanding on his feelings about the situation, Rudolph continued to deny Garrett's accusation following Sunday's game.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin wouldn't say after the game whether Rudolph or Hodges would start against the Browns. But Tomlin liked what he saw from Hodges.
"Just felt like our offense needed a spark," Tomlin said. "Mason wasn't doing enough, Duck came in and provided us with a spark, made a couple plays. We'll see what next week holds next week. But I like the contributions of Duck, I like his readiness. I appreciate the efforts of Mason and also appreciate the support of Mason after we made the change."
The Steelers (6-5) and Browns (5-6) are chasing the Ravens in the AFC North, and the loser of Sunday's Pittsburgh-Cleveland matchup will face even more of an uphill battle to make the playoffs. Baltimore has a Week 17 game with Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium.
Bengals: Cincinnati Looking Likely to Secure No. 1 Draft Pick.
Losing to Pittsburgh dropped the Bengals to 0-11, increasing the likelihood that they will finish with the NFL's worst record and secure the No. 1-overall 2020 Draft pick.
Every other team in the NFL has at least two victories, with the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Miami Dolphins at 2-9.
If the Bengals get the top pick, it will be interesting to see what they do with it. Most pundits regard LSU quarterback Joe Burrow as the top signal-caller prospect in the draft after the season-ending hip injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Bengals have gone with rookie quarterback Ryan Finley as the starter the past three games, but he continued to struggle Sunday (12 for 26, 192 yards, one touchdown, 21.0 quarterback rating). Meanwhile, the contract of veteran Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton expires following the 2020 season.
The Bengals have five games left – two against the Browns, home games against the Jets and New England Patriots and a road game against the Dolphins. Unless the Bengals play dramatically better than what they have shown this season, the first pick in the draft will likely be theirs.