The Pittsburgh Steelers needed a win last night. They came into the game 1-5, and with the Baltimore Ravens’ victory earlier in the day, were looking at possibly being in a three-game hole in the AFC North already, with a loss to Baltimore already in their rearview mirror.
And they were going to be starting a rookie undrafted free agent at quarterback who didn’t even make their initial 53-man roster in Devlin Hodges. While Hodges didn’t do much to hurt the team’s chances, the Steelers understood they would need a complete, collective effort to produce a team win, and that’s what they did.
“What coach talked about all week was just engineering a win”, said rookie Devin Bush, who was one of the chief engineers with two turnovers and a defensive touchdown. “Our plan was to set up a short game for Devlin and keep things simple for him and not make things erratic for him and put points on the board early”.
The defense was key in the victory, blanking the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half and pretty much keeping them at bay most of the game, producing three turnovers, one that ended in a touchdown, another that led to an offensive touchdown, and the final that sealed the game.
But all three phases contributed, and when speaking about the offense, you’re really talking about the running back position. James Conner had a big game. While his success came intermittent on the ground, with a series of positive and negative runs—he gained just 41 yards on 16 carries—he finished the night with 119 yards on 23 touches with two scores. On top of that, rookie Benny Snell rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries, getting by far his longest look with Jaylen Samuels out.
And then there was special teams, specifically Jordan Berry, who came up big. He punted four times, with a long of 59, posting an average of 46.3 yards. The last was the shortest, but the best, 35 yards, downed at the one-yard line, which set the Chargers up in an ugly position that led to an interception.
Hodges did okay for himself, without a doubt, at least knowing when and how to put the ball in positions for others to be productive with it. He kept things in front of him, only attempting a couple of balls in the intermediate range.
The Steelers did a nice job of taking the pressure off of him though, which each unit complementing the other. Unlike in their past three losses, they didn’t do anything overly egregious in a close game to hurt themselves.