By Danny Cox
When you’re in the race for a playoff spot and you’re facing off with a team that is playing for virtually nothing late in the season, it’s best to bring your “A” game no matter what. Coming out flat and losing a game you should have won is one of those reasons that you end up kicking yourself over when you’re home during the playoffs.
That’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers will do if they end up sitting at home this January after their performance on Sunday.
Sitting at 7-5, a loss to the lowly and reeling San Diego Chargers is just what the Steelers didn’t need, but it was what they got. The 34-24 final score even makes it look a lot better than what it was and Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said it best.
“We got whupped.”
No matter what the game plan was on Sunday, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin did not have his team execute it in any way they would have wanted.
Ben Roethlisberger was in his first game back from a shoulder injury and couldn’t have all the pressure sit on his throwing arm. Unfortunately, that’s what happened as the Steelers’ running game did nothing. If the Steelers can somehow make it into the playoffs, “Big Ben” won’t be totally healed and it could make for a quick exit.
Not to mention, there was no pressure on Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers against a thrown together offensive line, and that just boggles the mind. How the Steelers couldn’t dial up the pass rush is beyond me.
Roethlisberger looked decent in his return by completing 22 of 42 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He did throw one interception though and was sacked twice for a combined loss of 14 yards. The problem here is that he never should have had to throw that many times while just returning from a three-game absence due to a shoulder problem.
It’s just that 69 total yards from the rushing game isn’t going to help anything. Jonathan Dwyer had 32 yards on the ground, but that was only one more than Roethlisberger even had.
Two of Ben’s touchdown passes came in garbage time – with less than six minutes to go – when the Steelers were down by 24 again and the game was all but decided. Had wide receiver Mike Wallace caught a 50-yard bomb in the first half and Antonio Brown catch a 40-yard pass that bounced off his chest then perhaps this game would have been different.
Actually, the defense didn’t play all that horribly. Yes, they have up a lot of points but still surrendered less than 300 total yards to the Chargers. They even contained a running game that has a big weapon in Ryan Mathews. The one big problem is that they didn’t get to Philip Rivers more.
Rivers had been sacked 14 times in the last three games and was dealing with almost a whole new offensive line, but the Steelers only took him down once. The Pittsburgh defense didn’t cause a single turnover either.
Chuck Rainey had five great kickoff returns for an average of 22.6 yards per return. He never could break one, but he looked really good out there.
Shaun Suisham did his job by connecting on all three extra points and hitting the one field goal he attempted. It was a 49-yarder that sailed right through.
Punter Drew Butler had a lot of work to do by punting seven times for an average of 47.4, but one kick was extra special. Butler had a 79-yard bomb that set the Chargers way back, but Pittsburgh still couldn’t capitalize.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.