With undrafted rookie third-stringer Devlin Hodges making his first NFL start on the road in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Steelers wanted to take some of the weight off his shoulders.
They got that with a dominant performance on defense, an improved running game and a phenomenal showing from Steelers Nation, which took over Dignity Health Sports Park and cheered the Steelers to a 24-17 upset victory over the Chargers.
Perhaps feeding off the energy of the Black-and-Gold dominant crowd, the Steelers defense came out on fire, forcing two early turnovers that changed the course of the game.
After a pair three-and-outs, Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers was under serious pressure and missed the mark on a lateral that Devin Bush scooped up and returned nine yards for a touchdown.
On the next possession, Tyson Alualu deflected Rivers’ pass at the line and Bush grabbed it for his sixth takeaway of his rookie season.
The Steelers turned the short field into seven points with a James Conner touchdown run.
The Pittsburgh offense got the ball back once again before the end of the first quarter, and Hodges found Conner off to his right for a 26-yard catch and run for his second score of the game.
The Steelers started the second half with another long drive that took over 6 minutes off the clock and ended with a Chris Boswell field goal to take 24-0 lead.
Hodges made his first big mistake in the fourth quarter, when he was intercepted trying to force a deep ball to Johnny Holton. The Chargers turned that into a touchdown when Rivers hit Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone and started a comeback run.
Rivers hit Henry again from 11 yards out with 1:34 to play to draw the Chargers to with a score, but Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton recovered the onside kick attempt and then intercepted Rivers on the Chargers’ last-gasp drive.
Chase Claypool Races into Steelers Record Books with 84-Yard Catch
Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool raced down the left sideline at Heinz Field with an 84-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos on Sunday and straight into the team’s history books.
Claypool’s touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger tied for the fourth-longest reception by a rookie wide receiver in team history. It also stands as the longest reception of the season overall, according to TSN.
🇨🇦 rookie Chase Claypool’s first career touchdown is an 84-yarder, and the longest of the 2020 season so far! pic.twitter.com/9PBSVFMFQC
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 20, 2020
JuJu Smith-Schuster holds the Steelers rookie record with a 97-yard reception at Detroit on Oct. 29, 2017, which is also tied with Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard reception in 2018 as the longest overall in team history.
The other rookies with longer pass catches than Claypool’s 84-yarder were Martavis Bryant, who grabbed a 94-yarder from Roethlisberger in 2014 and Dave Smith, who caught an 87-yarder from Terry Bradshaw in 1970.
Claypool tied Charles Johnson’s 84-yard catch from Mike Tomczack in 1994.
Steelers Knock Broncos QB Drew Lock Out of Game, Will Not Return
Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree knocked Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock out of the game in the first quarter of the team’s matchup at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Lock escaped from fellow Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt on the play in Denver’s second offensive series, when Dupree hit him and drove him into the ground, forcing a fumble on the play that was recovered by Pittsburgh.
— NFL France (@NFLFrance) September 20, 2020
Lock first went into the medical tent on the Denver sideline for evaluation and then was taken to the visitor’s locker room area. The Broncos first said Lock was questionable to return to the game with a right (throwing) shoulder injury, but later downgraded him to out.
When he left the game, Lock had completed 1 of 5 passes for 20 yards. He was replaced by fifth-year backup Jeff Driskel.
The turnover turned into point for the Steelers, when James Conner scored from two yards out to give his team a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Broncos WR Courtland Sutton Active; RB Phillip Lindsay Out
Injured wide receiver Courtland Sutton will play for the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field on Sunday, but running back Phillip Lindsay is among the inactive players.
Sutton missed the Broncos’ opener after suffering shoulder injury in practice and was officially listed as questionable for the game on Friday.
Sutton was the Broncos’ leading receiver in 2019, when he led the team in targets (124), catches (72), yards (1,112) and receiving touchdowns (six). Without Sutton, rookie Jerry Jeudy was the most productive Denver receiver in the team’s season opener against Tennessee on Monday night.
Running back Phillip Lindsay will miss the game with a toe injury. He was ruled out on Friday. Melvin Gordon III is expected to start in his place.
Also dressing from the Denver injury report is tackle Garett Bolles, who was questionable with an elbow injury. Penn State alum and rookie wide receiver KJ Hamler will be active for the first time.
Former Steelers linebackers Mark Barron (hamstring) is also out and fellow former Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo is a healthy scratch. The other Denver scratches are wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, guard Netane Muti, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and defensive tackle McTelvin Agim.