Devlin Hodges, Washington bond over duck hunting

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Right about now, Devlin Hodges and James Washington are likely in the woods somewhere in Western Pennsylvania.

No, you didn't read that wrong. No, this isn't some new technique for improving quarterback-receiver connections through traffic. It's simply two newfound hunting buddies taking to nature together.

Hodges and Washington will again go duck hunting during the week to celebrate their 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, a game in which each played a pivotal role. Hodges finished with a line of 14-of-21 passing for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while Washington logged a career-best day of four receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown. Mike Tomlin officially confirmed Tuesday that Hodges would start again this week vs. the Cardinals.

Their connections jumpstarted a lifeless Steelers offense and also produced pivotal points in what ended up being a one-score game. One could wonder if it would have happened had they not grown more comfortable by venturing into the woods once before Sunday. Their bond was visible in their play Sunday, and in how Hodges handled his second career NFL start.

"Duck stayed calm the entire time," Washington said, via The Associated Press. "You never saw him get uptight or anything. He held his composure as well as everyone else. Everyone kept working and I feel like that's why we were able to come out on top."

The rookie quarterback first connected with the second-year receiver on a 31-yard completion in the first half that was the Steelers' biggest play of the day so far and breathed life into an offense that was struggling to establish even a hint of a presence. It wouldn't have happened without some sort of rapport between the two, with Hodges placing the ball over Greedy Williams into an area where only Washington could go grab it. The wideout then completed the grab by getting both feet in along the sideline, finding the last sliver of green grass before the boundary. And it all came on a free play, thanks to an offsides flag thrown at the snap.

There was more pressure in their most recent duck-hunting excursion -- in which Hodges lured them out and Washington took aim -- than on that play. By the time the end zone was in reach, their connection was solidified.

"I tell him I'm a better shooter than he is, so you call them in and I'll shoot 'em," Washington said. "That's kind of how it works."

It's only right that the quarterback received his chance to fire Sunday. Hodges heaved a second-quarter pass to Washington, who adjusted to the ball's flight and fought through pass interference on the part of Browns defensive back T.J. Carrie to make an excellent grab while tumbling into the end zone. Touchdown, Steelers.

Their score and a second-half Benny Snell touchdown is all the Steelers needed to defeat the Browns and remain in the heart of the AFC playoff race, which is growing to be as thick as the cattails surrounding Hodges' and Washington's pond of choice. We'll see if Duck's call can guide Pittsburgh into January.

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