Chargers 34

(5-8, 3-4 away)

Steelers 24

(7-6, 4-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 9, 2012

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
SD 3 10 14 734
PIT 0 3 7 1424

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 285 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: R. Mathews (SD) - 25 CAR, 65 YDS

Receiving: M. Wallace (PIT) - 7 REC, 112 YDS, 2 TD

Chargers ruin Ben Roethlisberger's return, swamp Steelers

Associated Press

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 have 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."

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1918
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays7961
Total Yards294340
Yards per play3.75.6
Total Drives1315
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

sdFG3:10Nick Novak 51 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 36 yds, 6:09
sdTD3:48Danario Alexander 39 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 48 yds, 1:38
sdFG0:54Nick Novak 39 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 26 yds, 1:08
pitFG0:04Shaun Suisham 49 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 59 yds, 0:50
sdTD5:33Malcom Floyd 3 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 17 plays, 78 yds, 9:32
sdTD5:20Quentin Jammer Fumble Recovery (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 0 yds, 0:00
pitTD2:40Mike Wallace 40 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yds, 2:43
sdTD9:52Danario Alexander 15 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 17 yds, 0:39
pitTD6:17Mike Wallace 11 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 81 yds, 3:39
pitTD1:02Antonio Brown 1 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 44 yds, 1:35

Research Notes

Philip Rivers outplayed Ben Roethlisberger on third downs Sunday as he had two touchdowns on such passes, and all 11 of his third-down completions went for first downs. Roethlisberger, who entered the game with a 94.5 Total QBR on third downs (best in NFL) compared to Rivers' 28.1 Total QBR (27th), completed less than 50 percent of his passes on third downs.
NEXT LEVEL: Ben Roethlisberger was under duress, sacked or hit while throwing on 19-of-48 (39.6 percent) dropbacks Sunday, the highest rate of pressure he has been under over the last three seasons. Roethlisberger's fourth-quarter interception under such pressure snapped a streak of 154 consecutive passes under duress or hit while throwing without being intercepted dating back to Week 1 of last season.
The Steelers sent at least five rushers on 19 of 43 dropbacks Sunday (44.2 percent), and Philip Rivers handled Pittsburgh's extra pressure well. Rivers completed 11-of-18 passes for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns against added rushers. Rivers had averaged 9.0 yards per attempt against added pressure entering Sunday, (second best among qualified quarterbacks), but also had thrown interceptions every 21.6 attempts against added pressure (fourth worst).

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