When the NFL put together their 2019 regular season schedule, they thought Week 6 of Sunday Night Football would have a matchup of 2004 NFL Draft class quarterbacks between Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers. What they got was a 1-4 Steelers team with third string quarterback Devlin Hodges at quarterback against a 2-3 Chargers team.
Nonetheless, the Steelers were playing to keep their season alive, and head into the bye week with some semblance of momentum. The Chargers were looking to re-insert themselves in the AFC West race with a big home win.
The Steelers won the opening coin toss, and elected to defer their possession to the start of the second half, instead sending their defense on the field to hopefully set the table for their offense to have good field position. And after a first down on the first play from scrimmage, the Steelers defense forced an early punt.
After a three-and-out by Hodges and company, the Steelers’ pass rush was all over Rivers from the first snap. On the second snap of the drive Rivers tried dumping the ball off to Melvin Gordon on a swing pass, but the pass went backwards. Devin Bush had the smarts to pick up the ball and run it into the endzone for the early score. Chris Boswell’s point after was good, making the score 7-0 with 10:51 left in the first quarter.
After the turnover, Rivers responded with a strike to Hunter Henry for a first down on the Chargers’ next drive. But his next pass was tipped by Tyson Alualu and intercepted by, none other than Devin Bush.
What happened next was something which hasn’t happened much for the Steelers so far in 2019. That would be the team turned a turnover into a touchdown. The drive was 7 plays in length, but featured all James Conner. Conner converted a 12-yard run for the second touchdown of the quarter.
Boswell’s point-after was good, making the score 14-0 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
The Steelers were able to stop the Chargers’ offense again, and put together one of the best drives of the season after. With a mix of run and pass, the drive showed tough running by Conner and Benny Snell Jr. as the offensive front started to impose their will on the Los Angeles defense. On 3rd down, Hodges hit Conner on a swing route and after making a defender miss, walked into the endzone from 26 yards out.
Chris Boswell’s kick was good to make the score 21-0 with 6:34 left in the half.
Rivers started to heat up on the next drive, and was finding Mike Williams early and often to move the Chargers into Pittsburgh territory. But on a second and 9, Rivers was flagged for intentional grounding. After a screen pass to Melvin Gordon was stopped short, it set up a 43-yard field goal attempt by Chase McLaughlin. But the kick hit the left upright and the Steelers went into halftime holding onto a 21-0 lead.
Pittsburgh received the ball to start the second half, and the offense put together an impressive drive which lasted nearly half of the third quarter. However, despite the time consumed, on a third and goal situation the Maurkice Pouncey snap went in between Hodges’ legs and although he corralled the ball and threw it away, it resulted in a Chris Boswell field goal. With 8:12 left in the third quarter the Steelers extended their lead 24-0.
The third quarter saw more punts than points scored, but it was the Chargers who were on the move when time expired on the third quarter. A promising drive stalled in the red-zone and the Chargers settled for a 38-yard field goal, making the score 24-3.
With the chance at a long drive to all but ensure victory, the Steelers moved the ball to midfield when Hodges stared down Johnny Holton and was intercepted, giving the Chargers a renewed sense of life with 10:36 left in regulation. Rivers took over at his own 30 and never looked back. Clutch throws, aided by many missed tackles, equated in a Rivers toss to Hunter Henry in the back of the endzone to make the score 24-10 with 7:13 left in regulation.
After a big Benny Snell run on first down, the Steelers didn’t gain another yard and gave the ball back to Los Angeles with a chance to make it a one score game. Rivers took just 8 plays to move 79 yards and hit Henry for his second touchdown of the game. With 1:29 left, and both teams holding onto all three of their timeouts remaining, the ball was in Hodges’ hands to win the game.
After a failed onside kick the Jordan Berry pinned the Chargers at their own one-yard line with 1:03 remaining, and no timeouts. On second down, Cam Sutton intercepted Rivers’ pass to seal the victory.
The Steelers win moves their record to 2-4 on the season heading into their Week 7 bye. The team will need the extra week to get healthy before their Week 8 Monday Night Football game vs. the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold throughout the 2019 regular season.