The Steelers had a good first half, with the only big blemish being a long touchdown pass allowed on a play on which the defense was rightfully expecting a false start to be called. They get the ball to start the third quarter with a 23-7 lead, including two rushing scores by James Conner and a 28-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Brown, who has 117 yards at halftime.
Marcus Allen and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi have both already seen time on defense, and L.J. Fort appears to be being used instead of Jon Bostic in this game, at least for extended periods of time. Offensively, Justin Hunter suffered an injury on a deep pass that Ben Roethlisberger overthrew that should have been an easy touchdown.
The second half started on the ground for Conner with a two-yard run up the middle. Throwing from a three-tight end set, Roethlisberger eventually settled for Vance McDonald in the flat, who laid a hit on a defender to pick up the first down.
After a four-yard run by Conner, Roethlisberger found Brown for six at the 46. The back got a good head of steam for a six-yard gain up the middle to take the ball across midfield. He found the edge on a lead run outside for a big gain, but a hold on Ramon Foster brought the whole play not only back, but back to the Steelers’ side of the field. Pretty weak call, especially considering what they’ve allowed this game.
Now second and 14, a screen pass for Ryan Switzer only got three yards to make it third and 11, Derwin James in on the tackle. Roethlisberger was forced to throw short of the chains to McDonald, who game up four yards shy of a new set of downs. Jordan Berry’s punt bounced out of bounds at the 12-yard line.
The Chargers’ first drive of the half began with a five-yard pass to Keenan Allen. Joe Haden make a good open-field tackle on Austin Ekeler for a three-yard gain to force a third and two. Marcus Allen now in, Allen was left wide open for the easy conversion to the 41, Sean Davis only barely forcing him out of bounds.
Allen couldn’t come up with another catch, the ball popping up. T.J. Watt made an improbable dive for it but didn’t get there. Justin Jackson now in at running back gained nine yards, and then plowed ahead for the conversion across midfield.
Javon Hargrave picked up yet another sack, his third game in a row with at least half a sack, on the following play. Hargrave pushed the pocket on second down as well but Rivers was able to get the pass out to Tyrell Williams for a first down in front of Terrell Edmunds.
Geno Smith for some reason entered the game to hand the ball off before coming out of the game again for a two-yard gain. Rivers now back in, Ekeler added four yards with Fort making a good tackle to hold it there. Now third and four, Rivers found Antonio Gates for his first catch with Vince Williams in coverage, but Russell Okung was flagged for a hold against Ola Adeniyi. A legitimate hold and a good call. Now third and 14 back at the 35, Rivers was able to fit a pass over Mike Hilton for a big conversion of nearly 20 yards to Mike Williams.
Down inside the 20 now, Ekeler spun ahead for seven yards. At the 10, Haden and Davis took each other out on a play that looked like it would be an interception. Instead, the ball popped up enough for Allen to adjust and make the catch for a touchdown, with Haden also injured on the play. Can the Chargers get any luckier in this game? Artie Burns replaced Haden due to the injury, and was beaten by Gates for the two-point conversion, making it 23-15 and a one-possession game.
Fort was called for a hold on the ensuing kickoff, pushing Roethlisberger and the offense back to inside their own 15. They started the game with great field position and since have mostly had terrible field position.
From the 14, Roethlisberger went back to Brown for an eight-yard reception to start the drive. And it was Brown again for seven. Jaylen Samuels was bottled up for just a yard up the middle to end the third quarter.
Alejandro Villanueva was flagged for holding on an eight-yard screen pass to Conner to begin the final quarter. He wasn’t happy about it. Now second and 19, Roethlisberger was sacked for the first time in the game by Joey Bosa, finally beating Matt Feiler with an inside spin move. And now it’s third and 29 with 14 minutes to play in a one-score game. A short dumpoff to McDonald that was barely even complete picked up just five yards. Berry punted from his own one, the line of scrimmage at the 16, going back to the 26. The gunners initially missed their tackles and the returner, Desmond King, took it all the way back for the score. Kameron Canaday was injured on the play. Who is the backup long snapper?
The Chargers, naturally, went for a two-point attempt to tie the game. Rivers to Allen for the conversion to make it 23-23, Los Angeles scoring 16 unanswered.
Playing in a tie game for the first time since the opening drive, the Steelers began with a five-yard run by Conner. A play action pass from Roethlisberger was broken up by King. Now third and five already, he couldn’t get the ball to McDonald, going three and out. Canaday returned to snap. Berry’s punt was fair caught back at the 20.
Rivers’s first pass went to Ekeler on a checkdown, but Edmunds popped the ball out for an incompletion. Yet another pass to Allen went for a first down against zone coverage. Jackson found a hole for a big gain near midfield.
From the Steelers’ 47, a checkdown to Jackson added another big gain as the defense looks helpless. The Chargers now at the 28, Ekeler picked up five yards on the ground. Yet another catch for Allen got five. From the 18, Jackson almost looked untouched for the go-ahead score as Los Angeles puts up 30 on the Steelers.
A quick slant to Smith-Schuster started the drive with a three-yard reception. Jesse James dragged a defender a few yards for the first down. A quick play-action pass to Brown picked up another first for 15 as he went over 150 yards for the game.
Near midfield, Smith-Schuster dropped a pass after taking a hit on a short throw, his second drop of the game. Roethlisberger stepped up to throw but his pass landed in the dirt. On third and 10, he escaped a sack and found Smith-Schuster for a nine-yard gain, marked just short of a first. I thought it was a bad spot. Tomlin challenged it and lost. Fourth and inches, Conner converted for the Steelers.
At the Chargers’ 42, Roethlisberger threw a deep pass while being hit that was fortunate to sail over everybody. Switzer took a violent, violent hit on a short reception by Jatavis Brown. The linebacker was flagged for a personal foul on the hit, unquestionable helmet-to-helmet contact that will see a fine later in the week.
The Steelers now have three receivers healthy, the third being Darrius Heyward-Bey. From the 27, Roethlisberger looked for it all going to Heyward-Bey, but couldn’t make the connection. He checked down for Conner on second down, who fought his way for 10 yards inside the 20, but he was injured on the play, holding his lower right leg.
Roethlisberger now dumped the ball off to Samuels, replacing Conner, getting six yards on the play. For the Chargers, Hayward remained down. It was Roethlisberger again going back to Samuels for a shallow crosser and the touchdown from 10 yards out. Boswell’s extra point tied the game again at 30 with 4:10 to play.
Rivers’ first pass of the drive was incomplete to Allen. T.J. Watt just missed a sack as Rivers dumped the ball off to Ekeler for a first down. After a two-yard gain, it was yet another first down completion to Allen near midfield down to the two-minute warning. Jackson bounced off defenders for 10 and another first down approaching field goal range.
Jackson added another three yards into long field goal range with 1:17 to play as the Steelers used their second timeout. Ekeler got a couple more yards on a short pass, going out of bounds. Now third and four with a timeout remaining, Rivers was able to get the ball to Allen for the conversion under pressure by Hargrave, but now the Chargers control the game. They either make a field goal and win or miss and go to overtime. With the line of scrimmage at the 21-yard line, rookie Michael Badgley won the game for the Chargers, 33-30, on a last-second game-winner from 39 yards out, sending the Steelers to 7-4-1 and losers of two straight. That was after he missed, but Haden jumped offside, so he got another shot from five yards closer and won it the second time. And then a third time when Burns jumped offside. Awful, awful game.