The Pittsburgh Steelers will hit the road in Week 6 to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football. Neither team has gotten off to the start they envisioned before the regular season began.
The Steelers are 1-4 and will be starting their third different quarterback of the season on Sunday. After suffering a concussion in Week 5, Mason Rudolph has already been ruled out for Week 6.
As a result, Devlin Hodges, an undrafted rookie out of Samford, will get his first NFL start versus the Chargers. Hodges had a chance to get some snaps in last week’s game after Rudolph was knocked out of the game by a devastating hit from Earl Thomas.
Regardless of who has been under center in Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ offense has been unable to consistently move the ball. Even when Ben Roethlisberger was still healthy, Pittsburgh scored just three points in Week 1.
Albeit, it was against a stingy New England Patriots defense that has only allowed three offensive touchdowns this season. Nevertheless, Hodges will attempt to lead the offense to their second win of the season on Sunday night. With that being said, here are four reasons why the Steelers will defeat the Chargers in Week 6.
4. James Conner should have success running the ball
To begin the season, the second season with James Conner as the starter in the backfield hasn’t gone according to plan. The sight of seeing Conner struggle to run the ball should come to an end against the Chargers on Sunday.
In the first five games of the season, the Pittsburgh product has rushed for just 194 yards on 58 rushing attempts (3.3 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. Jaylen Samuels will be out for nearly a month after undergoing a knee procedure earlier this week.
Thus, allowing Conner to see an increased workload in the backfield in Week 6. Along with Conner, rookie Benny Snell should also see some touches in the offense this Sunday. Both Conner and Snell could be in for a busy game against a Chargers defense that has given up 119.8 rushing yards per game (18th in the NFL).
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster is in for a breakout game
When a new quarterback is inserted into the offense, that quarterback should look to get the ball to his No. 1 receiver. In Pittsburgh, that receiver happens to be JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Up to this point, Smith-Schuster hasn’t been able to post numbers that reflect his presence as the team’s go-to wide receiver. The 22-year-old has caught 24 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns this season.
With Hodges getting his first start in the NFL, the rookie signal-caller will look to Smith-Schuster in Week 6. Due to the injuries in the secondary, Los Angeles has given up six yards per play this season (23rd in the NFL). This will allow JuJu to get back on track Sunday night.
2. Devlin Hodges will provide a spark to the offense
When Rudolph left the game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, many people believed the Steelers were going to get blown out in the second half. Instead, Hodges came in and was able to keep Pittsburgh within striking distance.
In nearly a half of football, the first-year quarterback completed seven of his nine passes for 68 yards. Additionally, the Samford alum showed off his rushing ability with 20 yards on two rushing attempts.
There isn’t much tape to go off for Hodges, so the Chargers could have trouble figuring him out. Unlike Roethlisberger and Rudolph, Hodges is able to move quickly out of the pocket, which could create issues for Los Angeles.
At the same time, Hodges could provide a much-needed spark for the Steelers in Week 6.
1. Steelers have had success against the Chargers in recent seasons
Yes, the Steelers are without Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown; guys they had in recent seasons when facing the Chargers. Still, Pittsburgh has always found ways to take down the Philip Rivers-led Chargers.
Since 2005, the Steelers are 5-3 versus the Chargers and those games were all decided by an average of just six points. In addition, their past two meetings have been decided by a total of just seven points.
Therefore, the game that takes place on Sunday night could come down to Los Angeles performing well in a late-game situation (which they haven’t done this season). All three of the Chargers’ losses this season came from the opposing team scoring a deciding touchdown or field goal in the fourth quarter.