PITTSBURGH - The Steelers are five games into the season, but they're already down in the hole with a 1-4 record. This week they head out to Los Angeles to face the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. Here are 11 Things I Think I Think as we look forward to the Week 6 matchup.
1) I think we're in store for quite the entertaining Sunday Night Football game and it's ONLY on Channel 11. Sure, the records of the Steelers and Chargers aren't exactly pretty, however both team's seasons are on the line. Desperate times call for desperate measures and it should provide excellent theater.
2) I think Devlin Hodges is going to perform rather well. I really do. T.J. Watt said it best when he told me Hodges "has moxie" and it was on display when he relieved Mason Rudolph last Sunday. He drove the team right down the field for a touchdown. He's turned heads ever since getting the tryout at Rookie Camp back in May. He won the Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman, and broke Steve McNair's FCS all-time passing yards record. He can play. And how can you not root for a guy with the nickname "Duck"?
3) I think Mason Rudolph was extremely lucky to get out of that vicious hit with only a concussion. That was the second scariest moment during a sporting event I've covered and I thought the worst when he lay motionless on the Heinz Field turf. I just hope he gets the proper care, which he will, and can return to 100% as soon as possible.
4) I think JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have been wildly unimpressive this season. They have a long ways to go to be the "Stars" they're being counted on to be. Between the two, they've literally fumbled away an alarming five wins over the last 21 games. I don't know what it will take to correct, but it just can't happen. Learning to be Batman when you've been Robin is a tall task.
You can watch the Steelers take on the Los Angeles Chargers right here on Channel 11 for Sunday Night Football starting at 8 p.m.
5) I think playing on the West Coast is an issue. Don't know why but the evidence doesn't lie. The Steelers are 19-40 all-time on the West Coast, however eight of those wins have come against….the Chargers.
6) I think the Steelers defense has to carry the load. They have 10 former first round picks at their disposal and have definitely improved in the takeaway department, but that's not enough. Allowing opposing teams to score, right after your anemic offense just put up points can't continue to happen. I like Devlin Hodges, but it shouldn't be too much to ask for the defense to play in a dominant fashion. There's enough talent there. Use it.
7) I think we're going to see a fake punt, fake field goal or onside kick from the Steelers in this one. I don't know why I feel this way, but when a team is desperate, which the Steelers are, they'll do whatever it takes to get a win. Just a hunch on my part.
8) I think it's going to be weird to see two NFL teams play in a soccer stadium. I love soccer. Played it myself through college, but this is the NFL. Why is this the best option with the billions of dollars these teams and league generate? It's not a good look, but at least we'll be in California.
9) I think the Steelers will have a better time dealing with Keenan Allen this season and his name is Minkah Fitzpatrick. You better believe he'll be lined up on the side of the field Allen is. Fitzpatrick has been a difference maker in his short time with the Steelers and I'd expect that to continue Sunday as he continues to settle into his role with the team.
10) I think the Chargers defense is brutal. All you need as evidence is the 191 rushing yards the Broncos, yes the Broncos put on them last week. Even with a undrafted rookie playing QB and all the injuries on the offense, the Steelers should be able to put up points. I believe in Devlin Hodges too much. I really do.
11) I think the Steelers figure out a way to win this game despite going with the Chargers on "The Jerome Bettis Show" for some reason. There was a calm confidence in the locker room this week and it was easy to pick up when I was on the South Side. Win this game and they'll be right in the thick of it in the AFC North. This isn't a team as bad as their 1-4 record says. Their last three losses have come by a total of 9 points. To me that says they're a competitive bunch regardless of who is playing quarterback, including a Duck.
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