Winners and losers from the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday night.
Devlin Hodges: A gameplan centered around a quarterback making his first start but Hodges played mistake-free football and moved the offense. He went through his reads, knew where his checkdown was, and bought time in the pocket. He also made a couple of high-level plays to avoid disaster on some ugly snaps by Maurkice Pouncey. Threw his first touchdown pass and notches his first win. Not bad for a dude who was trying out for the team five months ago.
James Conner: The offense revolved around Conner. He ran tough, with excellent contact balance, and the Chargers simply wanted no part in trying to tackle him. He served as a checkdown and often, a primary option in the flats in the passing game. He found the end zone twice tonight. Once on the ground, once in the air.
Devin Bush: Bush struggled a bit returning from a left ankle injury but anytime you record two turnovers and a touchdown, you’re getting on this list. He showed great ball awareness scooping and scoring on a lateral intended for Melvin Gordon in the first quarter. Then, he capitalized on Tyson Alualu’s batted pass for his second INT in as many weeks. He’s a playmaker, a missing element to this defense.
Offensive Line: Gotta give credit to the big five up front. They imposed their will on the Chargers’ questionable defensive line, creating movement up front and giving Conner and Benny Snell huge lanes to run through. They set the tone this week and the rest of the offense followed.
Steelers Nation: It honestly isn’t a surprise given how weak Chargers’ support is, how strong Steelers’ Nation represents itself, and the fact LA plays in the NFL’s smallest stadium. But this was a home game tonight, not a road trip for Pittsburgh. You can say with confidence there were more Steelers’ fans than Chargers’ faithful and it showed anytime a positive play went the Steelers’ way. I absolutely loved the duck calls the mic’s picked up too. Just total domination tonight, on and off the field.
Tyson Alualu: Perhaps his best game as a Steeler. Don’t mistake him for Stephon Tuitt and if he’s out for a long time, there will be a clear drop off, but Alualu was excellent tonight. Working off blocks in the run game and getting his hands in throwing lanes, leading to Bush’s interception.
TJ Watt: His typical elite self. RT Sam Tevi simply could not block him. Watt may not quite be in that 1% of pass rushers, though he’s close, but his well-rounded game, intensity, and leadership make him one of the best defenders in football.
Jordan Berry: His excellent season continues. First punt traveled 59 yards. Second one pinned LA inside their own ten with superb hangtime. The final one put the Chargers on the one yard line. Tonight was Berry’s best game in the NFL. Kudos.
Third Down Offense: Been highly critical of them this season but they were excellent tonight. Converted manageable situations and did well in short-yardage, where they’ve struggled all season and frankly, just been one of the worst teams in football on possession downs. Finished the game 8/13, a top figure by any measure.
Cam Sutton: Clearly better than Burns and if the Steelers need an outside corner again, they need to turn to him. Also made one heck of a play recovering the onside kick to nearly ice the game then picked off a pass to finish the job.
Maurkice Pouncey: I have no idea why Pouncey had such an adventure with snapping the ball tonight. You’d think he’d have it pretty easy with Hodges working out of shotgun but on one drive, Pouncey had four poor snaps. Luckily, none resulted in turnovers but they were near-disaster moments. Maybe the Chargers’ chewed up turf played a role? No clue.
Justin Layne: Layne worked as a gunner on special teams tonight with Artie Burns elevated to playing RCB but struggled. Called for one false start and should’ve been called for fair catch interference but was saved by the referee’s blunder in trying to make a decision.
Artie Burns: Another corner on the list. Burns has been much worse, I know the bar is low, but it wasn’t a great night in relief of Steven Nelson. Wide receiver Mike Williams caught a couple on him and he was flagged for illegal use of hands to give the Chargers a free first down in the fourth quarter. He would give up a touchdown to TE Hunter Henry later in the drive.
Kameron Kelly: Like Burns, he was picked on at the end of the game. Injuries at corner and safety have given the Steelers few options, unfortunately.
This certainly wasn’t the game that will get Steelers’ Nation excited to see him again.