Jeff Hartman, the lead editor at Behind the Steel Curtain was kind enough to talk Pittsburgh Steelers with us.
1. What does Duck Hodges do that Mason Rudolph could not?
The biggest difference between Hodges and Rudolph is two-fold. Hodges does a much better job with the quick, anticipatory throws. Rudolph struggled with paralysis by analysis, and it hurt him in the long run. Hodge is a quarterback who throws receivers open and isn’t afraid to “grip it and rip it”. Outside of those throws, Hodges is more mobile than Rudolph. He isn’t a runner, but can run and certainly can escape the pocket to free up some time and potentially find a target down the field. Rudolph was more statue-like in the pocket and his poor pocket manipulation was ultimately what resulted in his benching.
2. Despite the injuries, ineffectiveness and of course losing Brown/Bell the Steelers are in the playoffs (as of now). Is this the best coaching job of Mike Tomlin’s career?
Whenever I say it is, which I truly believe it is, others respond with how Tomlin has won a Super Bowl. He also won a Super Bowl with a stacked roster of players he didn’t draft. This is Tomlin’s team through and through, and on top of that this team has been dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity from the death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake in training camp to Ben Roethlisberger’s injury and so on. The Steelers started this season 0-3, and 1-4, are on their 3rd string quarterback who wasn’t even on the roster in Week 1 and are throwing passes to players who were on practice squads two weeks ago. The defense has been the constant, and although the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick was a big risk at the time, it has paid off ten-fold. This is by far Tomlin’s best season of his career, in my opinion.
3. What is the key to the offense for the Steelers to be successful?
The running game. When the team is able to run the ball with decent efficiency it opens up the entire playbook. When they struggle to convert third downs is when they go through ridiculous lulls of three-and-outs. Outside of simply running the ball to stay balanced, it will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner will actually let Devlin Hodges throw the ball downfield. He didn’t do that in Week 13 until the Steelers were down 10-0 and entering a two-minute situation. Due to being forced to throw the ball, Hodges got into a groove and they entered halftime 10-10. Have to let the duck fly.
4. Who are the names we need to know on defense and how do you beat the Steelers?
It is hard to believe, but the Steelers now have a defense riddled with tremendous players. Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Devin Bush. I could go on, but this defense is riddled with first and second round draft picks who are finally starting to come into their own. The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks and takeaways heading into Week 14, and if you want to beat them you have to be able to do two things: Protect the passer and run the football. If you can do those things you have a shot at pushing the ball downfield, especially to the tight end down the seam, but if you can’t it will be long day for the offense.
This game scares me due to Murray’s elusiveness, but I think the Steelers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, even though no one is really taking them seriously with Duck Hodges at quarterback. I think it is close at first, but a second half surge equates to the Steelers moving their record to 8-5 after beating the Cardinals 24-13.