The Steelers' season is still alive enough to stay hopeful
Eliminate one quarter of Week 6 and the Pittsburgh Steelers played a perfect game. In Los Angeles, with a third-string quarterback, isn't the situation you'd usually play your best football, but that's what happened for the Steelers.
Even with Devlin Hodges winning his first NFL start, and receiving the game ball, the biggest takeaway was the Steelers performance outside of the unsung hero.
The offense played exactly how they needed to, to allow the defense to win the game. When you're dealing with injuries at major positions, you want to become more of a clock management offense instead of a high-flying one. James Conner's 41 rushing yards and 78 receiving yards did just that.
Pittsburgh controlled the tempo through Conner. Whether it was a short pass or a run, their primary focus was allowing their running back to be the primary source of the offense. Conner came through, scoring two touchdowns, and keeping each drive in Pittsburgh's hands for as long as he could.
At this point in the season it's become clear how the Steelers are going to turn this year around. At 2-4, there's still a small glimpse of hope that 2019 isn't over. That'll be determined by the defense.
Again, remove the fourth quarter. Before Stephon Tuitt, Joe Haden and T.J. Watt left the game, this defense was unstoppable. No matter what direction the Chargers tried to move the ball, they found themselves unsuccessful.
It was a defense that will win each and every week. Turnovers, sacks and pressure were constant, and it put LA in a position to lose from the first quarter. It's not always easy to win with a third-string quarterback, so the defense made sure the first 21 points would be unanswered, just to give some cushion for the remainder of the game.
The win keeps the season alive. Fighting with their backs against the wall, the Steelers head into the bye week with the possibility of starting a second-half run. Their schedule from here on out includes the Dolphins, Colts, Rams, Browns, Bengals, Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.
It's not all winnable games, but no schedule is easy enough to walk through the last ten games of the season. The Steelers will need to put off upsets against LA, Indianapolis and Buffalo. Win two out of three, though, and a 2-4 record can become very promising, very fast.
There's still enough optimism to stay hopeful. The Steelers' season isn't over yet, but it is close. There isn't room for error, but this is also the best defensive team they've had in years.
2-4 heading into the bye week is a record they can build from. Still two games out of first in the AFC North, the Steelers chances are alive. And Sunday night showed they're good enough to handle themselves moving forward. At least enough to say they aren't dead yet.