3 Standouts: Steelers Offense Awakens While Joe Haden Does It Again
Devlin 'Duck' Hodges is 3-0 as a starting NFL quarterback and this time, he did just as much as anyone else dressed in the Steelers uniform. For the first time all season, the defense hard their hits and misses and the offense kept the game alive.
It was a performance that, even against a 3-9-1 football team, showed exactly how strong this team is when the momentum is on their side. Things got slow from time-to-time, but once something clicked, everything clicked.
"It was a collaborative effort that took place in all three phases," Mike Tomlin described it.
Devlin Hodges Is Doing More Than Not Killing the Offense
It's not providing a spark anymore. Devlin Hodges is playing well for an NFL quarterback and he's doing more than enough to keep his team in games. He adds the ability to make things happen through the air, is always down to take a reasonable risk, and when needed can escape the pocket.
"It's great to have another chance to play, and the confidence and the comfort level just comes with playing a lot and practicing. So obviously the more you practice, the more you play, the more comfortable you get."
If three starts was all it took for Hodges to get this comfortable, it's a great sign. The coaches trust him, the offense is motivated behind him, and the Steelers are rolling through Duck Season.
"I definitely think there's a lot of confidence. We've been winning some games but at the same time we've done a good job of taking it one week at a time, one game at a time. Now, we'll go celebrate a little bit and worry about next week and next week only."
The Steelers "Growth" Within Their Rookies
Diontae Johnson had himself a game. The rookie receiver was quieting down over the last few weeks, and on Tuesday, Mike Tomlin said that was something he wasn't concerned about. Tomlin is focused on December football for his team and he assured Johnson would have gas left in the tank for it.
Well, that showed today and Tomlin explained how it's all part of the plan. There are three rookies on the team outside of Hodges - Benny Snell, Diontae Johnson and Devin Bush - who are all needed for this run to continue. So, the Steelers prepared them for the long run.
"He's a rookie. Days like today are days that we do like, last week we don't. We'll see what next week holds," Tomlin said. "It's important, not only him but all of those guys, the ascending guys, here in the month of December. We've been thoughtful about that in terms of their exposure. In September, we didn't them a lot of snaps. We managed the growth of guys like Diontae and Benny Snell and Devin Bush because we want them to be guys on the rise down the stretch and not guys that are dying on the vine."
Johnson looked like he found the spark he's been capable of. With defenses paying attention more attention to James Washington, he's going to get more looks.
Joe Haden's Pro Bowl Push
In the last five games, Joe Haden has accumulated four interceptions and nine pass deflections. He's come up with turnovers to end three games and is quietly playing one of the best seasons of his career - coming off two other seasons in Pittsburgh that have not been under-achievements.
"He's just a quality, low maintenance, high production veteran players. And Steve [Nelson] as well," Tomlin said. "Obviously Joe made the splash today, so he deserves a lot of recognition. But I can't say enough about both of those, low maintenance, high production veteran corners that provide a nice high floor for us in terms of performance."
It's true. The growth of the Steelers secondary has been significant, but nothing more promising than the play of their two veteran cornerbacks. Haden and Nelson are keeping games in check, and when needed, Haden has made the big play to turn momentum back to his team.
A Pro Bowl caliber year? Absolutely. If you don't agree, name four AFC corners that are playing better than Haden in the comments below.
The Steelers are moving forward with another win. They refused to overlook Arizona, a weekly motto they've lived by throughout this run. They're never focused on anything bigger than "this week", and it's working.
"We're singly focused on Buffalo. That's probably why we're here," Mike Tomlin said.