Tim Benz: Steelers’ feats of strength after 24-17 win over Chargers | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Steelers’ feats of strength after 24-17 win over Chargers

Tim Benz
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, second from right, celebrates a tackle with linebacker Devin Bush, left, inside linebacker Vince Williams, second from right, and defensive end Cameron Heyward during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush celebrates a touchdown after picking up a backward pass by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were traveling to the West Coast — where they are always bad — to play the Los Angeles Chargers. They were banged up, absent eight regulars. And they had to start third-string quarterback Devlin “Duck Dynasty” Hodges.

So I had the “Airing of Grievances” template ready to go.

Much to my surprise, though, I was able to dust off the “Feats of Strength” for just the second time this year as the Duck flew high, leading the Steelers to a 24-17 win.

Devin over Devlin

Don’t get me wrong. Hodges was plenty good in his first NFL start.

But Devin Bush stood out with two turnovers in the first half, including one for a touchdown.

Bush now has six turnovers in his first six NFL games.

He also battled through an ankle injury in the second half, and ended up with seven tackles.

All about the backups

Stephon Tuitt left the game with a pectoral injury.

That sounds bad.

Let’s hope this isn’t the latest season-altering malady for Tuitt. He’s had too many of those in recent seasons that otherwise could’ve been blockbusters for him.

It was a knee problem in 2016, a torn biceps in 2017 and an elbow injury last year.

But Tyson Alualu stepped up in his absence to create havoc along that Los Angeles offensive line and deflected the ball that Bush intercepted.

Anthony Chickillo also subbed for Bud Dupree and picked up a sack.

The running backs

With Jaylen Samuels inactive thanks to a knee injury, Benny Snell joined James Conner to have a positive impact on the game.

Snell had 75 yards and 15 carries in his greatest exposure of 2019. Meanwhile, Conner was the team’s top receiver with seven catches, 78 yards and this touchdown.

That was Hodges’ first touchdown throw, although Conner did most of the work. Both he and Snell were good after contact, breaking multiple tackles along the way.

And, most importantly, making things easier than expected on Hodges.

Duck and cover

Not only did the Duck cover the spread, he got the win.

Hodges didn’t have to do much, totaling just 140 yards from scrimmage. The defense and the running game took care of business on his behalf.

“Duck” wasn’t just a passenger, though. Aside from his one interception, Hodges was accurate, completing 15-of-20 passes.

The next evolution of Hodges’ game will be to get the wide receivers involved in the passing game. They combined for just five catches and 30 yards.

Special teams actually special

Head coach Mike Tomlin aired out his special teams after the loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

They came up huge twice late in the win against the Chargers.

Jordan Berry’s punt on fourth-and-1 from the Los Angeles 35-yard line was clutch. He dropped it on the one-yard line and Johnny Holton touched it up.

That was the right call to punt there, given that there was only 1:11 left to play, up a touchdown. It forced the Chargers to have to go the full 99 yards for a score in an attempt to tie the game, with no timeouts left.

Also, Cam Sutton’s acrobatic recovery of a fourth-quarter onside kick before that possession at the end of the game was fantastic.

Sutton complemented that play with this game-sealing interception.

And he totaled three pass-breakups, including this one in the end zone.

Sutton was one of the stars of the evening.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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