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Hodges, Steelers offense show vulnerability in big way in loss to Bills

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Coming into Sunday night, avoiding turnovers was the main emphasis in pursuing a fourth straight win, and all but locking up a wild card spot.

The task was too tall, and mortality set in on a Pittsburgh team that coughed up the ball a total of five times in a sloppy 17-10 loss to Buffalo on primetime.

“We weren’t able to take care of the ball, particularly when time became a factor,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ll learn from this and move forward.”

Devlin Hodges threw four interceptions in the loss. The first one was picked off by Tre’Davious White midway through the first quarter. The Bills were not able to capitalize on the pick. The second interception was a different story.

“Sometimes you make plays, sometimes you don’t,” Hodges said. “We felt like we could throw the ball.”

The Steelers were driving late in the third quarter. Hodges telegraphed a pass down the right sideline. White picked off his second pass of the night and returned it 49 yards to the Steelers 18 yard line. The Steelers defense kept Buffalo out of the end zone and the Stephen Hauschka booted a 36-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10 with 12:23 left.

“We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to,” Hodges said. “They had a great defense. They’re a playoff team.”

Late in the first quarter, the Bills forced a punt. Jordan Berry whiffed on the punt though and it only travelled 22 yards to the Steelers 40-yard line. Buffalo took advantage of the short field and capped a 9-play, 40-yard drive with a 1-yard Josh Allen quarterback keeper for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The biggest Steeler gaffe of the game came in the final minutes of the first half. Steven Nelson intercepted Allen and returned the pick to the Buffalo 20-yard line. A penalty pushed the ball to the Bills 10-yard line. Two plays later, the Steelers lined up in the wildcat formation. It resulted in a Dontae Johnson fumbled. Jordan Poyer recovered the fumble to snuff out the Steelers easy scoring chance.

“We’ve been [using the wildcat] for weeks,” Tomlin said. “That’s just how it goes. [The fumble] was unfortunate.”

After the Bills took a 17-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers were forced to play catch up. They drove to the Buffalo 36-yard line but Hodges threw his third interception of the game when Jordan Poyer picked off the pass in the end with less than two minutes left in the game.

“I threw it inside,” Hodges said. “It was supposed to be a sideline route.”

Pittsburgh’s defense held the Bills and forced a punt to give the offense one last time to at least tie the game. Once again, the Steelers drove down the field into Bills territory, but Hodges threw another interception, this time it was Levi Wallace, picking off Duck in the end zone to seal the Buffalo win.

“I tried to throw a jumpball and hopefully we could make a play,” Hodges said. “I need to get focused on next week and learn from my mistakes.”

After the game, Tomlin would not commit to who would be the starting quarterback moving forward.

“I’m not getting into [who is the starting quarterback next game]. We just lost a football game,” Tomlin  said. “I’m not going to make an announcement every week in terms of how is playing quarterback.”

In the meantime, Hodges will continue preparing to improve his game.

“I need to get focused on next week and learn from my mistakes,” Hodges said. “I need to shake it off and go. This was a good learning experience for me.”

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