The last time that the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Los Angeles Chargers on the road—first of all, they were in San Diego, but also—Mike Tomlin’s team was without Ben Roethlisberger. That was back in 2015, and now, four years later, Tomlin is preparing to face the Chargers again without his franchise quarterback.
Also reminiscent of that previous game, the current quarterback projected to start that game was one that was not initially intended to be on the 53-man roster. in 2015, that was Mike Vick, who was brought in during the preseason after backup Bruce Gradkowski suffered a season-ending injury.
Said Tomlin of the circumstances he’s currently facing, it’s not entirely unfamiliar territory. “I’ve been in this thing long enough that it’s all pretty much a rerun to me”, he told reporters. “The last time we were out to play the Chargers, they were out in San Diego, and I think we were with our fourth quarterback that Monday Night game. So if you’re thankful enough to do this job long enough, it all becomes a rerun in some form or fashion”.
There are some discrepancies, of course. While Vick was technically the fourth quarterback brought in—Landry Jones was the third-string quarterback—he was signed to take Gradkowski’s place as the number two.
Now the projected starter is Devlin Hodges, who did not make the initial 53-man roster or practice squad, on the former of which, three—Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, and Joshua Dobbs—were kept. After the Steelers traded Dobbs for a fifth-round pick, Hodges was signed to the practice squad, and then promoted to the 53-man roster a week later with Roethlisberger moved to the Reserve/Injured List.
Vick was a highly-experienced quarterback at that time, though he confessed that he had not been preparing, knowing he would be a backup, with the expectation that he would play. His tenure with the Steelers proved to be an uninspiring one, even though they managed to beat the Chargers in that game, Le’Veon Bell scoring the game-winning touchdown as time expired out of a Wildcat setting.
Pittsburgh is hoping at least to duplicate the results of that game with Hodges under center, though they lack the supporting personnel that helped carry the game that time around. They did it with some defensive help, courtesy of a 70-yard touchdown interception return from Antwon Blake, and a splash-play 72-yard strike from Markus Wheaton on a double move.
If the Steelers can get some extracurricular scoring assistance from the defensive and special teams units, and perhaps hit on a couple of big plays on offense, this should be a winnable game—as hard as that is to say of a 1-4 team.