NFL 2019 (Week 6): Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 6): Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers entered the season with playoff aspirations, yet through five games, both teams find themselves under .500. Injuries have wrecked these rosters, with Los Angeles missing its star safety Derwin James all year so far, and Pittsburgh now starting its third quarterback of the season in Devlin Hodges. Ben Roethlisberger will not play again in 2019, but backup (and de facto starter) Mason Rudolph will return after clearing the concussion protocol. The Steelers have struggled to find footing, opening the year 0-3 for the first time since 2013 before rebounding with a win over Cincinnati and a narrow overtime loss to Baltimore. The Chargers opened up with an overtime victory over Indianapolis, and their three losses have all been by a single score, with a blowout win over Miami sandwiched in between. Aside from their 30-point demolition at the hands of New England, Pittsburgh’s other losses have been even closer than LA’s. With each team desperate for a signature win, this is getting close to “must win” territory, even in October.

Steelers: At this time last year, Devlin Hodges was preparing to lead his Samford Bulldogs against the Virginia Military Institute Keydets in a Southern Conference matchup. And while Hodges threw for six scores in a 73-22 rout, he will now be evading pressure from Joey Bosa and going toe-to-toe with future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers. To say that this is a significant upgrade in competition level is to say that the sky is blue or water is wet. Still, the Steelers scored a touchdown on the drive that Hodges came on in relief of Rudolph against Baltimore, and he led them to a field goal late in the fourth quarter as well. If his defense keeps it close, the rookie may be able to engineer a drive or two when his team needs it most. Everyone else will have to elevate their play to give him that chance, but Steelers coaches believe he can do it.

Chargers: Los Angeles’ defense is predicated on Bosa and Melvin Ingram disrupting an opposing quarterback for 60 minutes, so Ingram’s absence may allow Hodges to settle in with a little more comfort. Ingram was limited in practice on Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday, and he is officially listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. On the other side of the ball, running back Melvin Gordon has returned from his lengthy holdout, although his return yielded pedestrian stats (12 carries for 31 yards) in an uninspiring loss to the Denver Broncos. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are capable backups, but the Chargers’ hopes of returning to the postseason may hinge on how quickly Gordon can get back into Pro Bowl form. On the outside, Keenan Allen has been playing like a man possessed, racking up 470 receiving yards and three touchdowns to this point. The more weapons Rivers has at his disposal, the more difficult Los Angeles will be to beat.

Prediction: Hodges plays surprisingly well for a former FCS quarterback making his first start, but Anthony Lynn’s squad sends a message after dropping a head scratcher against Denver last week.

Los Angeles Chargers 30, Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.


NFL 2019