Learning experience

It came down to a beat-the-clock drive for a touchdown to tie the game.


Devlin "Duck" Hodges and the Steelers' offense didn't get into the end zone on either occasion late in the fourth quarter in last Sunday night's 17-10 loss to Buffalo.

But the expectation is they'll be better for the experience, individually and collectively, the next time such a situation arises.

"We had opportunities, we really did," offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner assessed after practice today. "Sometimes, you get too aggressive and you gotta still realize that moving the chains, throwing short, running long, potentially throwing away to give you another down and more time, things like that are really important.

"And until you do it and you do it at this level it's awful hard to simulate, even in training camp."

Hodges quarterbacked his share of two-minute drills at Saint Vincent College.

And he played beat-the-clock well enough to produce a game-tying touchdown with one minute left in the second quarter on Dec. 1 against Cleveland, and a field goal for a three-point lead on the final play of the first half on Dec. 8 at Arizona.

But this was different.

The Steelers got the ball at their 19-yard line trailing, 17-10, with 5:13 left in regulation.

They made it as far as the Bills' 23 but turned the ball over on an interception on fourth-and-7 just inside the two-minute warning.

They got it back again at their 43 with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter and reached the Bills' 26 before a subsequent interception, Hodges' fourth of the game, turned the ball over with six seconds left.

It was the first time Hodges faced touchdown-or-bust situations, the kind you can't quite replicate in training camp.

"We do it, and it's great to do it against our defense," Fichtner continued. "But the weight of that and every decision you made isn't weighted as greatly then. You try and make it (similar) as a coach but, c'mon, we're at training camp. It's not win or lose the game in that moment."

Hodges needs to "keep growing in that situation," Fichtner added. "I'm thankful that he had that opportunity to be in there and I never thought for one minute that we weren't going to be successful even when the defense got the ball back to us with no timeouts left. We had every opportunity. I'd love to say we can grow from that right now, but now's not the time to grow from it. Shoot, we want the win. We gotta find a way to finish that.

"Those are things that we addressed this week, how can we manage this better? Think about what you have to do to be able to manage that situation a little better. And equally, it's not just him being young in that situation. There's other guys on the field that are young, too. We gotta keep working on it."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 16 matchup against the New York Jets