What's not to smile about?

CARSON, Calif. _ During the TV timeout following the punt that ended the Chargers’ first possession, Steelers quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges engaged his teammates in the offensive huddle while flashing an ear-to-ear grin.

Guard David DeCastro appreciated the moment.

“That’s just his character, man,” DeCastro offered after the Steelers won Hodges’ first NFL start, 24-17, on Sunday night at Dignity Health Sports Park. “He’s just super laid back, but at the same time focused.

“Every quarterback has to have that confidence in the huddle and everyone does it a different way. That’s just kind of how he does it.”

Hodges recalled “probably just giving the guys an idea of the play we were gonna do. We already knew the play, I was just kinda reminding them.

“I think I might have mentioned this might be a home game all day, so we might have to tell the crowd to settle down a little bit,” he added.

Hodges was still smiling in the aftermath, following a 15-for-20 night passing for 132 yards that included his first NFL touchdown pass, his first NFL interception and his first win as an NFL starter.

“Honestly, speechless,” Hodges offered during his first appearance behind a podium in an NFL interview room. “That’s something that since I was 5 years old, since I threw my first touchdown pass, that’s something that I’ve always just kind of dreamed about. It’s been a bumpy road, especially the past couple months.

“It’s been wild to think about, but I always had belief in myself, I had other people behind me and it’s just amazing.”

PATIENCE REWARDED: Running back James Conner carried 16 times for 41 hard-earned yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run.

He also caught seven passes on seven targets for 78 yards, including a 26-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

“I’m not going to go for 100 yards, two touchdowns every game,” he said. “That’s why you just cancel out the noise when you’re not having big numbers on the ground and stuff like that.

“It takes patience, it’s a long season. Just gotta have patience with it, we’ll have these big games.”

HAVING A BALL: Rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush scored his first NFL touchdown on a 9-yard fumble return and also came up with another interception, his team-leading second.

The Steelers’ two interceptions (cornerback Cam Sutton sealed the game with an INT in the final minute of regulation) matched last season’s total of eight.

And Bush’s fumble recovery matched last season’s total of seven for the Steelers.

Bush has had a hand in six of the Steelers’ 15 defensive turnovers (four fumble recoveries, two interceptions).

“When I’m home I’m just sitting around with a ball in my hand,” Bush said. “That’s a good thing, good luck, I guess.”

RIGHT ON CUE: Bush’s fumble return for a touchdown was the first defensive score of 2019.

“That was something ‘Coach T’ (head coach Mike Tomlin) emphasized to us,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He was like, ‘Y’all have been doing a good job getting turnovers, but we need to get points, pick-sixes, fumble recoveries for touchdowns, things like that, anything we could do to help out the offense.

“Continue to do ball-search and continue to keep creating turnovers, but if we can get points to help out our offense that would be big.”

FINISHING STRONG: The Steelers punted the ball back to the Chargers on fourth-and-1 from the Chargers’ 36-yard line with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Johnny Holton downed Jordan Berry’s punt at the Chargers’ 1.

Sutton’s interception moments later provided the exclamation point.

“It was a team effort, everybody worked together,” defensive tackle Cam Heyward emphasized. “Even on that last drive, the offense got it to fourth-and-1, punt, and then put them at the 1. It’s hard to get a lot of success for an offense to go 99 yards.

“Just proud of the whole team as a whole, getting this done.”

BENNY SNELL FOOTBALL: Rookie running back Benny Snell had six carries for 30 yards in the first five games.

But with running back Jaylen Samuels (knee) out and Conner (quad) unavailable late, Snell responded with a team-high 17 carries for a team-high 74 rushing yards against the Chargers.

“Next man up,” Snell said. “When we say ‘next man up,’ we make sure everyone is prepared. I was prepared for my situation for Jaylen going down.

“‘Duck’ has been prepared since OTAs, since I was with him when I first got here. ‘Duck’ is all about business, man. When it was his time, I knew he was ready. It was a great job, man, I’m proud of ‘Duck.’ I’m proud of everybody.”

One thing Snell wasn’t prepared for was the preponderance of Steelers fans in the announced crowd of 25,425.

“Oh, man, great atmosphere,” Snell gushed. “I was telling guys on the sideline, ‘This is a home game.’ It was amazing, man.

“Never played a game like this, one to remember.”

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park

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