The Steelers surprisingly bring a 21-0 lead into the second half, also getting the ball. James Conner scored from distance twice, first on the ground and then through the air, Devlin Hodges’ first career touchdown pass. Devin Bush also scored on a fumble recovery, the first defensive touchdown of the year for Pittsburgh, something they were looking to get for a while.
Of note, both Bush and Stephon Tuitt left the game with injuries. Bush looked to have a minor ankle injury, while Tuitt suffered a pectoral injury and has initially been deemed questionable to return. Tuitt was downgraded to out before the third quarter began.
After a touchback, the Chargers jumped offside on first down. Off play action, Hodges was under pressure and so had to look for Conner, who picked up a first down and more. At the 45, it was Snell up the middle for three. Diontae Johnson seemed to drop the pass down the field on the next play, but took a shot to the head afterward, a clear penalty. Conner was dropped for no gain after leaving his feet on the first play on the other side of the field.
Conner landed hard and came out of the game. Hodges had nothing open on second down and had to throw the ball away after he got under pressure. Now third and long, he dumped it off to Snell on a screen for what would have been a first down, but a hold made it third and six as a spot foul. An offside penalty gave the Steelers a free play, but Hodges threw incomplete. Now third and one, Conner still out, Snell got the conversion on the ground.
Desmond King was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, slapping the ball out of Snell’s hand, making it half the distance to the goal. Now at the 12, Hodges threw the ball out of the end zone, looking for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Hodges did a nice job of corralling a high snap from Pouncey and getting it out to Snell, two rookies showing good awareness, for six yards. Now third and four form the seven, Snell got the carry and was able to get close enough for a measurement. The chain gang played in their favor for a first down, making it first and goal.
Conner checked back in for his first snap since landing hard on that play earlier on the drive. From the two, he got the carry, but wasn’t able to get any push. Now second down, he got maybe one yard. On third and goal, Pouncey threw the snap low, trickling far behind Hodges. Pouncey is having an unusually bad game snapping. Hodges showed good awareness to track and field the ball and throw it away. Chris Boswell came on for a field goal, making it 24-0.
After an extended drive by the offense, the defense responded with a three-and-out, a run stop on first down, followed by a five-yard pass to Hunter Henry. On third and two, T.J. Watt was left unblocked on an intended pass to the back, but he was able to get up and swat down Philip Rivers’ pass.
Conner was stopped behind the line of scrimmage on the first play of the Steelers’ second drive of the half. Hodges completed to…Donte Moncrief for the first. It was a great catch. After a 12 men penalty, Conner was again strung out and stopped at the line of scrimmage. This time he was stretched out to the left for a short gain. On third and long, Conner got the pass on an inside screen, about 11 before being cut down.
Jordan Berry got off another great punt, this one signaled for a fair catch inside the 10. The returner muffed it, however, and Justin Layne was able to come away with it, giving the Steelers first and goal. Layne had a hand on the ball for what should have been fair catch interference, however. Last year, Desmond King got away with a punt return score on a play that shouldn’t have counted because of an illegal block in the back. A discussion on the field resulted in the officials identifying this, however, wiping out that turnover. It was the right call.
Rivers from the nine, down 24 with 18 minutes to go, was nearly sacked by Watt on first down, throwing incomplete. One thing the Steelers don’t have yet tonight is a sack, oddly enough. On second down, Rivers found Allen for a first down of about 14 yards. Bush was flagged for taunting. Another lesson for the rookie that he’ll learn from. Now at the 38, Henry barely made the catch with Vince Williams in coverage, but there was a hold on the play on Forrest Lamp.
Back at the 28, Rivers threw short to Henry for about seven. Bush missed a tackle on Ekeler near the line of scrimmage, allowing him to pick up about 11. Now third and short, he got about five on the ground. He found Henry again down the field to the 30. Gordon broke a tackle on a checkdown for 14 to end the third quarter.
At the 16, Rivers connected with Travis Benjamin in the end zone, but out of bounds, incomplete. Cameron Sutton was in coverage and would’ve been there to force him out. Rivers finally was brought down, Chickillo perhaps the primary, but Watt was also there, as was Cameron Heyward. On third down, Haden batted down a pass, but it a hold would’ve negated any positive play anyway. The Chargers decided to settle for a field goal on fourth and 13, making it 24-3.
Snell now in to start the Steelers’ first drive of the fourth quarter, he got the carry for about three off the left side. He somehow squeezed the ball into tight coverage to Nick Vannett for about five. On third and two, Snell was able to convert with his legs.
A quick pass out to Smith-Schuster, his first catch, for about seven. Snell got another first, fighting for about five yards. At midfield, Hodges fired down the field looking for Johnny Holton, but was intercepted, the defender making a nice play to cut in front of the receiver.
Taking over at the 30, Rivers quickly took a shot deep, but it wasn’t where it needed to be for Benjamin, with good coverage. He threaded the needle to Williams for 11. Finding Henry across midfield, he got 22 there on a toss over the top. At the 38, his pass was deflected at the line, incomplete. Watt almost swatted another pass, incomplete, but Artie Burns was flagged for illegal hands to the face, really the first time we heard from him tonight.
Williams broke two tackles for another first down, the first a Bush attempt, who has been sloppy since returning from his ankle injury. From the 20, Rivers threw behind Henry, Terrell Edmunds there to ensure the pass was incomplete. A short pass to Virgil Green with run after the catch set up first and goal. At the five, he slung a pass out to Benjamin, who was wrapped up for no gain, as the clock ticked past the halfway point of the fourth quarter. On second and goal, Cameron Sutton was there to record the pass defensed in great coverage on a back shoulder. Now third down, Henry made the catch, Burns trying to force him out of bounds, but not quite far enough. So it’s 24-10.
Snell found the edge to break off a nice gain, hitting 70 yards on the ground for the night. A nice hole between Zach Banner and Matt Feiler. At the 39, he only got about a yard or two. After another yard set up third and eight, out of five wide, another sub-par snap by Pouncey led to a short pass behind the line of scrimmage to Ryan Switzer, who, of course, was tackled for a loss.
With a little more than four minutes to go, Berry punted for the third time, fielded at the 15 and returned to about the 22. Minkah Fitzpatrick nearly picked off the first pass of the drive. He probably could have finished the play, but the wide receiver was fighting with him late as well. With Heyward coming, Rivers checked down and Kameron Kelly blew up Gordon for a short gain. Third and seven, he did find Jason Moore down the field, left open, for a big play to the Steelers’ 44.
Bush wrapped up Gordon after a pass for no gain, but McCullers was flagged for illegal hands to the face. At the 39 now, Rivers had his pass broken up by Sutton looking for Williams. Another nice play by the third-year guy. Williams hobbled off the field after the play. Bush and Ekeler had a good fight after a pass ending in a four-yard reception. Now third down, Jeremy Davis made the first-down catch with Sutton in coverage at the two-minute warning.
Another quick pass to Moore for a first for 11, with Sutton making the tackle. Rivers hit Henry again for the touchdown with Kelly in coverage to make it 25-17 with 89 seconds to play, and they have their timeouts.
Sutton made the play to recover the onside kick attempt, stepping up. Steelers ball at the 47. In running formation, Snell broke a tackle to pick up a couple of yards on first down, the Chargers taking their first timeout. He was stuffed for no gain on second down, the second timeout called with 1:16 to play. On third and eight, it was a quarterback keeper for Hodges, getting about six, short of the first.
On fourth and one, with the opportunity to win the game, Mike Tomlin passed it up, electing to forgo a 54-yard field goal attempt or a fourth-down try, sending in Berry to punt it. Holton made a great play to down it at the one-yard line, so Rivers will have to go 99 yards in 63 seconds. Watt is on the sideline to begin the drive.
On first down, his pass was almost Willie Mays-d by Mike Hilton, but he couldn’t complete the basket catch interception. Would’ve been a great play. Now second down, it was Sutton making the over the shoulder interception to seal it. The Steelers win their second game of the year, 24-17, recording three turnovers to finish with 15 on the year through six weeks.