PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For the second straight week, the Pittsburgh Steelers led in the second half only to watch it slip away. This time, the final result was a 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field.
The Steelers led 23-7 at halftime only to watch the Chargers rip off 23 unanswered points to take a 30-23 lead late in the fourth quarter. Captain Cam Heyward says this is what Pittsburgh hoped to do with 23-7 halftime lead.
“Offense puts up points, and then we have them where we want ’em, where we can really light our hair on fire and get after the passer,” he said.
Instead, the Steelers offense wasn’t able to mount a drive and gave the ball back to the Chargers, who charged back and dominated on the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes.
Many fans left Heinz Field muttering about penalties, including several they thought should have been called against the Chargers, most notably an illegal procedure call on LA tackle Sam Tevi. More than 6,100 screamed in unison when he appeared to start early on a play that ended in the Chargers only first half TD. There was no flag thrown on the play.
The Steelers were steamed when a block in the back was not called on another Los Angeles score, a punt return for a touchdown in the second half.
After the game, Steelers guard Ramon Foster preferred to concentrate on the seven penalties that were called on his team.
“When you have penalties on our side, we take the blame for it that stop drives, that’s what type of stuff happens. You’ve got to be perfect, especially in these night games, especially against a good team, too,” he said.
He wasn’t alone.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said it was more than flags — or a lack of them — that sank the Steelers Sunday night at home.
“We aren’t going to put it in the ref’s hands. We need to play better football,” Roethlisberger said. “Like I said, we didn’t play well enough on offense.”
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When asked about the officiating during his post-game press conference, coach Mike Tomlin refused to address the subject, only saying he had “sent enough money to New York” (to pay fines for previous comments about officials).
Many players, like Foster, followed the coach’s lead.
“I don’t want to get fined for that. I’ll leave it at that. That’s just,” he paused. “I don’t want to get fined for referee calls,” he said.
Two penalties late in a tied game cost the Steelers dearly. As the Chargers lined up to try a game-winning field goal, Steelers defensive back Joe Haden was whistled for off-sides as LA missed the 39-yard boot. That moved the ball five yards closer and gave the Chargers a second chance.
Haden disagreed with the flag.
“Sometimes when you get a good jump, it looks like you jumped offsides, but I’ve gotta look at it again [on film]. I didn’t feel like we was offsides,” Haden said.
On the next Chargers’ field goal try, the Steelers blocked the 34-yard kick — only to be called for being off-sides again.
The Chargers didn’t miss the third time as the 29-year-field goal gave them a three-point win.
Now the Steelers’ cushion in the AFC North is down to just a half-game on the Baltimore Ravens. Yet center Maurkice Pouncey is not reaching for the panic button.
“We just gotta keep working. This ain’t the first time we couldn’t put up points in the second half like that,” he said.
Pouncey promised the Steelers will get back to work at practice this week as they prepare for the Oakland Raiders.
“We will keep pushing forward — trust me,” he said.
As for Cam Heyward, he says his defense needs to start making more of an impact, adding there is no way the Steelers should ever lose a game when the offense scores 30 points.
“We gotta get turnovers. We gotta get sacks. We gotta get more negative plays,” he said.