For as bad as it looked most of the game, the reality is that the Pittsburgh Steelers were in control late, multiple times, and they squandered multiple opportunities to play the role of closer. After tying the Los Angeles Chargers at 37-37 with 4:23 to play, they got a turnover on downs at the 34, but could not capitalize. They did get the go-ahead field goal, but that was the bare minimum objective, only advancing the ball seven yards and using just seconds of clock.
“Obviously, we’d like to finish the game off. We’d like to stay on the field, score a touchdown”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said about that penultimate sequence, which culminated in an attempted deep pass to Diontae Johnson that was initially going to draw a flag before the officials ruled that the pass was uncatchable.
“They called a pass interference, or a holding, and they picked it up for uncatchable, which, referee’s discretion, I guess”, he said on that. “And we settled for three. But that’s disappointing, because, offensively, we’d like to use the clock and finish that game off”.
The Steelers ran three passing plays in that sequence, and as was the case throughout, the team was questioned about why they did not run the ball more, though it should be noted in this instance that Najee Harris was still in the concussion protocol, with Kalen Ballage and Benny Snell the available backs. Roethlisberger explained that three-play sequence after the game.
“Well, the first play was an RPO, but they packed the box, so we had to throw it, and actually went to throw it to Chase [Claypool], and I think KB was still in the game, he bobbled, hit me a little bit, guy was driving through behind him, which wasn’t a big deal”, he said of the first play, an incomplete pass. “Second play we completed to James, picked up eight or nine yards. Then the last play, we though they anticipated us running the ball, so we tried to max it up and take a shot down the field. That’s the play where I felt like Diontae got behind somebody”, he added.
That answer probably isn’t going to satisfy many people, granted. They only held the ball for a whopping 19 seconds. While they got points on the board courtesy of a 45-yard Chris Boswell field goal, they left ample time for the Chargers to come back.
And it wasn’t because they ‘scored too early’, or anything like that. They just couldn’t move the football in that instance. An above-average offense should be able to run the clock down to zero and kick the game-winning field goal. Roethlisberger and company know that.
There was no reason for Justin Herbert to ever see the field again after that turnover on downs. And their not running the ball at all since Najee Harris’ one-yard touchdown with over 11 minutes to play won’t make it easier for them to defend their performance.