This Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 33-30. The loss was significant in several ways, one of which being that it was the first Steelers loss where they were leading by at least 14 points at home. The Steelers previously were 220-0-2 with such a lead. Going into the half, the Steelers were up 23-7.
In fact, the first half of the game, the Steelers were explosive. They were on top of the Chargers in every way, both sides of the line of scrimmage. Defensively, they held the Chargers run game to just one net yard on the ground in the full 30 minutes. They also held them to a field goal attempt, which they missed, and only one touchdown. The Steelers, offensively, scored on four of their six first half drives. One of those drives was for 91 yards and only lasted a little over a minute long. It ended with a 28-yard touchdown reception by Antonio Brown.
But something happened at the half. When the Steelers and the Chargers came back on the field, it was like Cris Collinsworth said, it seemed like the teams had switched jerseys. The Chargers were now the explosive team and the Steelers were struggling in every way. The Chargers came out and scored 23 points before the Steelers could get into the endzone again. The Steelers were unable to make big plays against the Chargers defense, and then they struggled defensively as well. It ultimately came down to the end, the game a tie at 30 and the Chargers had the ball. All the Steelers needed to do was stop the Chargers and get the ball back. But they couldn’t. In fact, the Steelers had three chances to stop the field goal that cost them the game, but they were offsides every time, which caused them to lose out on a miss by kicker Michael Badgley and a second attempt that was blocked.
A lot of controversy has surrounded this game already, looking at the refereeing team and the calls made on the field. Granted, there are really no excuses for the Steelers loss. They lost their momentum, Ben Roethlisberger was making poor decisions and costly mistakes and the defense wasn’t playing to the best of their ability. But the touchdown first scored by the Chargers was a clear false start that wasn’t called. The refs even owned up to that mistake to Coach Mike Tomlin, but there was nothing they could do about it after it happened, so the Steelers had to suffer. In Desmond King’s punt return for a touchdown, the TD that brought the Chargers back up to tie the game at 23, there was a clear block in the back. Again, there’s nothing the officiating crew could do after they missed the call, but again, the Steelers had to endure another touchdown that should’ve been called back. However, like I said, there’s not a lot the Steelers can do against bad calls, and that is no excuse for their mistakes. The refs didn’t cause Ben to throw a costly interception when they were making a strong drive for the endzone, nor did they cause Ben to overthrow a wide open Justin Hunter in the endzone.
Now with a record of 7-4-1, the Steelers have a lot of work to do to secure their position in the playoffs. Formerly holding the number two seed, the Steelers now sit at fourth seed, and now have to struggle against the Ravens rising in the division. Next week, the Steelers head to Oakland to face the 2-10 Raiders. That should be an easy win for the Steelers, but given their pattern of playing to the level of their competition as well as these unnecessary and costly mistakes being made, nothing is guaranteed. There is a lot of work needed to be done in these last four weeks if the Steelers hope to place well in the playoffs.