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Steelers 24, Chargers 17: Fifteen thoughts from Sunday’s game

The Steelers improved to 2-4 with a 24-17 win over the Chargers Sunday night. From Devlin Hodges to Devin Bush, let’s break down the game and the Steelers’ season in general with these 15 fun facts and figures.

  • This was the Steelers’ first win in a West Coast city other than San Diego in almost 20 years. Since beating the 49ers 27-6 on Nov. 7, 1999, the Steelers are 4-10 in the Pacific time zone.
  • The Steelers’ wins over the Chargers in 2000, 2005 and 2015 all came in San Diego. The franchise moved to Los Angeles in 2017. This was the Steelers’ first game in Los Angeles since Week 13 of the 1994 season, when they defeated the Raiders 21-3 in the Raiders’ last year in Los Angeles. They were 2-2 against the Raiders and 0-9 against the Rams when those teams played in Los Angeles. The last time they played the Rams in LA, they lost 27-0 in Week 2 of the 1993 season. A rookie named Jerome Bettis scored his first career touchdown against the Steelers.
  • The Steelers have won their last two road games against the Chargers, both with backup quarterbacks. Michael Vick completed 13 of 26 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Week 5 of the 2015 season. The date of that game was Oct. 12, four years and a day before Hodges completed 15 of 20 for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
  • Since Ben Roethlisberger took over as the Steelers’ starting quarterback in 2004, the Steelers are 12-11 without him in games that count. Their actual record is 15-12, but four of those games came in Week 17 when they rested their starters.
  • Hodges is the second young Steelers quarterback who’s been thrown into the fire this season, but it helps that Steelers quarterbacks have been sacked only five times, the fewest in the league. That should put to rest any fears of a dropoff after offensive line coach Mike Munchak went to Denver.
  • No account of Sunday’s game would be complete without mentioning Devin Bush. He gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when he scooped up a backward pass that Melvin Gordon couldn’t handle and returned it nine yards for a touchdown. On the next series, Bush intercepted a Philip Rivers pass that was tipped by Tyson Alualu to set up James Conner’s 12-yard touchdown run that gave the Steelers a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Bush also led the Steelers with seven solo tackles in the game.
  • Bush is making a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The only other Steelers to win the award were Mean Joe Greene (1969), Jack Lambert (1974) and Kendrell Bell (2001). Bush, who the Steelers traded up 10 spots to get in the 2019 draft, leads the league with four fumble recoveries. Lambert holds the single-season team record with eight in 1976. Bush leads all rookies and is 12th overall with 32 solo tackles this season, and he and Giants linebacker Ryan Connelly are the only rookies with two interceptions.
  • The Steelers are third in the league with 20 sacks, but they have no one in the top 20 in the league in that category. T.J. Watt leads the team with four, and eight players have at least one sack. Watt is tied for the league lead in quarterback hits with 14. Guess who he’s tied with? J.J. Watt.
  • Bud Dupree has quietly made the Steelers look smart for picking up his fifth-year option. The 22nd pick in the 2015 draft has three sacks, which puts him on pace to surpass his career high of six. He’s also on pace for career highs in tackles for loss (12, he has five now) and quarterback hits (13, he has five now).
  • The Steelers defense had been among the worst in the league early in the season, but through Sunday’s games the unit is 15th in yards allowed per game, according to NFL.com. Their passing defense is 15th and their rushing defense is 16th.
  • That rushing defense allowed just 32 yards on Sunday. It was the first time since Week 6 of the 2017 season that the Steelers have allowed 32 rushing yards or less. In that game, they won 19-13 at Kansas City.
  • After their bye next week, the Steelers face the 0-5 Dolphins at home on Monday Night Football. If they can manage to win that game, they’ll be in a better position than the 2013 team that also was 2-4 after six games. That team infamously started 0-4, won two straight and then lost two straight to fall to 2-6 halfway through the season. The Steelers lost only two more games after that by a total of eight points and still had a chance to make the playoffs after playing their last game. They just didn’t get the help they needed in other games.
  • We have to look at that 2013 team because that was the low point of the Mike Tomlin era and we’re using it as a measuring stick for bad starts. If the Steelers can stay ahead of that team’s pace, they’ll have a better chance of not leaving their playoff fate in another team’s hands. Their schedule sets them up to go on a run. Not only do they have a bye and then three straight home games, but in their final 10 games they face only three teams that currently have a winning record. Those games could go a long way toward sorting out playoff tiebreakers. The Steelers host the Colts (3-2) in Week 9, the Bills (4-1) in Week 15 and visit the Ravens (4-2) in Week 17.
  • Yeah, the Steelers started 0-3, but the three teams that beat them in those games, the Patriots, Seahawks and 49ers, are a combined 16-1. So it’s fair to say that those were the three toughest games on their schedule, and they had plenty of chances to win two of those games
  • If the Steelers want another shot at facing teams that good, they’ll have to take care of business against teams who, like them, are in the middle of the pack in the NFL.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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