PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten pretty good at beating the NFL’s best.
They’ve nearly perfected losing to the worst.
And while San Diego is more underachieving than utterly horrific, the Chargers’ 34-24 win over the Steelers on Sunday continued a perplexing trend for a team that considers itself among the elite.
Pittsburgh (7-6) has won on the road at Baltimore and the New York Giants this season. It has also fallen to lesser-lights Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland and now the Chargers (5-8). It makes for one of the weirder resumes of any playoff contender.
“There’s nothing we can really say,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We know we went out and messed up a lot of games. We know we’re going to pay for it here.”
The Steelers certainly paid for it on Sunday.
Pittsburgh hoped the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from a three-week layoff due to a sprained right shoulder would provide the final piece to a puzzle that’s only come together in fits and spurts this fall.
While Roethlisberger’s arm looked fine while throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns, he got little help from his teammates and was hardly perfect himself, throwing for an interception and having a botched screen pass turn into an easy San Diego score that put the Chargers up 24 midway through the third quarter.
“We felt like we missed a lot of plays out there,” Roethlisberger said. “I missed a lot of throws. I threw it to them once. We all have to play better.”
Amazingly, the Steelers are still in prime position to secure one of the AFC’s six postseason spots after Cincinnati lost to Dallas. If Pittsburgh can win its final three games — starting with a road game against the Cowboys next Sunday — it’s in no matter what happens elsewhere.
“I feel great about this team,” nose tackle Casey Hampton said. “We didn’t play our best today and they got us but going forward I feel like we’re going to win every game. That’s what we’ve got to do to get in the playoffs.”
There are no such visions in San Diego, which came in having lost seven of its last eight. Yet the Chargers were able to make history by winning in Pittsburgh in the regular season for the first time, snapping a 14-game losing streak.
They did it by playing with the fearlessness and tenacity of a team with postseason dreams. Those are long gone, and head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith may soon be on their way out, too.
Not that it mattered on a day the Chargers looked like the team playing with something on the line.
Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Danario Alexander, and San Diego cruised.
“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 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.
The Steelers didn’t even cross midfield until a last-gasp drive to end the half ended with Shaun Suisham’s 49-yard field goal that pulled them to 13-3.
Any boost the kick provided 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 then 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.”
NOTES: Steelers LG Willie Colon left the game with a left knee injury. 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.
Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
More Related Stories
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
- Morgan Freeman sleeps during televised interview
- J.J. Abrams reveals deleted shower scene with Benedict Cumberbatch
- Is the anti-gay backlash on?
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11