The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

December 9, 2012

Up-and-down Steelers lose to lowly Chargers

PITTSBURGH — So much for Ben Roethlisberger’s triumphant return. Ditto the notion the Pittsburgh Steelers had finally turned the corner.

Rhythm disrupted by a relentless San Diego pass rush, Roethlisberger struggled early and the Steelers never recovered in a listless – not to mention perplexing – 34-24 loss on Sunday.

“We got whupped,” Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote said.

A thumping that continued a maddening trend for the Steelers (7-6), who have won on the road at Baltimore, Cincinnati and the New York Giants this year but also fallen to Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland and now the Chargers (5-8).

Roethlisberger completed 22 of 42 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns in his first game back after spraining his right shoulder and dislocating a rib in an overtime win against Kansas City nearly a month ago. Most of the yards and all of the scores came after the Steelers had fallen behind by 24 points to a team that had never won in Pittsburgh during the regular season.

“I have no clue (why we’re inconsistent),” Roethlisberger said. “If I knew I don’t think we’d do it anymore. I thought we’d play better.”

The Steelers thought they’d revived their season last Sunday in an emotional victory over the Ravens behind third-string quarterback Charlie Batch. Instead, they looked disinterested at times and sloppy at others against a team that hardly looked like it was playing out the string.

Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Danario Alexander, and underachieving San Diego beat the Steelers on the road for the first time since the AFL and NFL merged more than 40 years ago.

“This isn’t necessarily the team we thought we’d have on the field in December, but this is the type of performance we thought we’d put together,” said Rivers, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 200 yards.

The Chargers have been one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments after a 3-1 start evaporated into a 1-7 slide that fueled speculation coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith could be fired at season’s end.

Maybe, but for an afternoon, anyway, the Chargers played with a fearlessness they’ve lacked during their swoon.

The injury-ravaged offensive line kept Rivers out of harm’s way. The Steelers only sacked Rivers once, and all that extra time in the pocket helped him convert 12 of 22 third downs, allowing San Diego to chew up the clock and keep Roethlisberger from getting going while the game was still competitive.

“We all know that this team has played this way through large parts of many games,” Turner said. “We did not make the big mistake in the football game.”

Instead, it was the Steelers who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.

Mike Wallace caught two second-half touchdowns but also dropped a 50-yard rocket from Roethlisberger in the first half that would have gotten Pittsburgh out of an early hole. Antonio Brown also scored in the final seconds but saw a 40-yard pass clang off his chest in the second quarter that could have made a difference.

The running game the Steelers hoped would take pressure off Roethlisberger’s right arm never materialized. Jonathan Dwyer led the Steelers with 32 yards, or one more than Roethlisberger had during five hold-your-breath scrambles.

San Diego controlled an ugly first half, taking a 13-3 lead at the break behind a 39-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Alexander and a pair of Nick Novak field goals.

The Steelers didn’t even cross midfield until a last-gasp drive to end the half ended with a 49-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

Any boost the kick provided Pittsburgh disappeared during the first 10 minutes of the third quarter.

San Diego converted five straight third downs during a clock-chewing drive, including a 17-yard burst up the middle by Ronnie Brown on third-and-13 from the Pittsburgh 29.

The play wasn’t designed to get a first down, but a pair of missed tackles helped the Chargers extend the drive. Three plays later Rivers found Michael Floyd for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 20-3.

The 17-play march ate up nearly 10 minutes. The Chargers needed barely 10 seconds to put the game away.

Backed up yet again after Floyd’s score, Roethlisberger tried to hit Brown on a screen pass. The ball smacked into tight end David Paulson’s rear and rolled into the end zone, where Quentin Jammer fell on it.

The play appeared to be overturned on review. Pittsburgh’s offense ran back onto the field when referee Scott Green popped out from under the hood.

Instead, Green pulled a switcheroo, confirming the score to give the Chargers a 27-3 lead and a brief moment of joy in a year full of chaos.

“Yeah we’ve been struggling the last five weeks,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “But at the end of the day it only came down to one or two plays in those games we lost. Today, we just were playing the way we were capable of playing, the way we know how to play.”

Meanwhile the Steelers will have to find a way to move forward after one of the most demoralizing defeats of Tomlin’s six-year tenure. Pittsburgh still controls its playoff hopes after Cincinnati lost to Dallas.

If the Steelers can win their final three games, they’ll play into January. That’s too far down the road to think about. At the moment, they’d just like to get back to playing something resembling competitive football.

“Those of us that have been around here, we’ve got to find a way to pick it up and finish strong,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We’ve got to bounce back. We’ve got to respond from this performance.”

Notes: Steelers LG Willie Colon left the game with a left knee injury. Maurkice Pouncey moved from center to guard, with Doug Legursky replacing Pouncey at center ... Roethlisberger became the 25th quarterback in NFL history to surpass 29,000 passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards ...San Diego WR Michael Spurlock had seven receptions for 64 yards, with five of the receptions turning third downs into first downs ... Steelers WR Plaxico Burress had an 18-yard reception in the first half, his first reception since being re-signed by the Steelers two weeks ago ... San Diego held the ball for 36:45, the most by a Pittsburgh opponent this season.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0414 Pressure on Penguins to capture Cup

    The statistics are gaudy.
    And if the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t find a way to extend their season into the final days of spring, ultimately forgettable.
    The same team that led the NHL in man games lost due to injury (more than 500) also earned 109 points, led the Metropolitan Division from mid-October on and received another peerless effort from star Sidney Crosby, who topped the league with 104 points and is a near lock for the second MVP award of his career.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0413 Brewers sweep away Pirates

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senators dump Penguins in shootout

    April 13, 2014

  • Pirates 0412 Brewers continue hot play

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0412 Flyers cut down Penguins in OT

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • first inning Hot Brewers sink Pirates

    Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run homer that backed Wily Peralta, and the Milwaukee Brewers extended their winning streak to seven with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
    Francisco Liriano befuddled the Brewers with his slider over the first three innings before Ramirez sent a 1-2 fastball over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads