Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
PITTSBURGH -- With the opportunity to host the AFC Championship Game at home, the San Diego Chargers were unable to recover from a strange third quarter Sunday in a physical game in frigid weather.
The Chargers and Steelers battled toe-to-toe for much of the game but it was the third quarter that was the difference as the Steelers extended their lead to 21-10 in the quarter. The Chargers ran just one offensive play in the quarter and the pass was intercepted on a deflection. Another Chargers offensive opportunity was scuttled when a Pittsburgh punt bounced off a San Diego blocker's helmet and the Steelers recovered the muff.
Indeed, it was a strange end to a weird season for San Diego. The Chargers, preseason Super Bowl contenders, floundered early and made the playoffs after a 4-8 start. They were helped by a colossal three-game collapse by Denver which led the AFC West until the final game of the season in which the Chargers embarrassed Denver by 31 points.
San Diego became the first team to make the playoffs in NFL history after starting 4-8 and it became just the second team to make the postseason with an 8-8 record.
The Chargers were sky high entering the game in Pittsburgh complete with a five-game win streak, the longest current streak in the NFL.
In the end, though, the Chargers ran out of steam in Pittsburgh, closing out another season without a title for a team considered to have one of the best rosters in the NFL.