Devlin Hodges, James Washington form bond for Steelers
Tuesday, James Washington and Devlin Hodges went on a duck-hunting outing.
Five days later, the duo went hunting for big plays.
Hodges and Washington connected on three passes of least 30 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers during a 20-13 victory against the Cleveland Browns.
“I told James after the game that we are going duck hunting (this) Tuesday just like last Tuesday,” Hodges said with a smirk. “I mean, it’s awesome to have that relationship off the field. It makes on the field a little more comfortable.”
Washington posted a career-high for receiving yards (111, on four catches) in his 25th game. That it was just the second of those 25 started by Hodges might not be a coincidence.
On the third snap Hodges took after relieving Mason Rudolph early in the second half of last week’s win at the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington had a 79-yard touchdown. In the past six quarters with Hodges as his quarterback, Washington has six catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Before then, Washington had 24 catches for 375 yards and one touchdown.
“Honestly, I guess it’s just me and him kind knowing each other off the field … doing a lot of hunting together,” Washington said. “So we kind of get to know each other better. But it’s all about making plays that come your way at the end of the day.”
Washington’s first opportunity for a play Sunday came with the Steelers offense struggling early and the team trailing 10-0 midway through the second quarter. Washington noticed the Browns’ Sheldon Richardson jumping offsides, and Hodges saw the flag thrown for it. So Hodges heaved the ball downfield, and Washington came down with a 32-yard catch.
“Heck of a play by James,” Hodges said. “It was a little spark to get us going.”
Washington added a 30-yard touchdown catch that tied the score with 66 seconds left in the first half, and his 44-yard catch 2 minutes into the third quarter set up a Benny Snell touchdown that gave the Steelers the lead for good.
On all three of Washington’s big plays, Hodges showed trust in throwing it to him down the field while a defender had what appeared to be good coverage.
Washington’s chemistry with Hodges is even more interesting because it is Rudolph with whom Washington has a history of more than six years. Washington and Rudolph starred at Oklahoma State and were drafted 16 picks apart in 2018. Hodges is an undrafted rookie from Samford.
Then again, it’s not just Washington who has taken note of the intangible qualities Hodges has shown.
“Duck has been a leader since he stepped foot on the Steelers facility, (organized team activities),” Snell said.
Fellow running back Jaylen Samuels agreed — almost verbatim.
“It’s been like since I met him,” Samuels said of Hodges, “so throughout training camp, OTAs, he’s definitely showed everybody why he deserves to be playing. He’s out there making plays.”
Hodges completed four of his six passes that were targeted at least 20 yards downfield Sunday (one was intercepted), according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Other than Washington’s plays, Tevin Jones had a 28-yard reception.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .