After Further Review: The one that got away, again

After further review …

They were getting blown out, until they weren't.

And they were somehow in position to win it, until they didn't.

Of all that's left to gnaw on in the wake of Chargers 41, Steelers 37, it's the latter that most urgently needs to be addressed.

Blame the offense.

Blame the defense.

Attribute what ultimately took place to who wasn't playing, particularly on defense.

You'd have a convincing argument either way.

But the game was still there for the taking late in the fourth quarter, as inexplicable as that may seem to anyone who witnessed the first three.

The fourth-and-1 stop of Austin Ekeler with less than four minutes remaining gave the Steelers the ball at the Chargers' 34-yard line.

The four-play, 7-yard drive in 19 seconds for a field goal that followed broke a 34-34 tie, but it wasn't what the Steelers had in mind.

"The first play was an RPO but they packed the box so we had to throw it," Ben Roethlisberger explained. "Actually went to throw it to Chase (Claypool), I think 'K.B.' (Kalen Ballage) was in the game. He hit me a little bit, a guy was driving on through behind him, which wasn't a big deal. Second-down play we completed to James Washington, picked up 8 or 9 yards (7, which set up a third-and-3). And then the last play we thought they anticipated us running the ball, so we tried to max it up and take a shot down the field.

"That's the play I felt like Diontae (Johnson) got behind somebody and got tackled."

A flag was thrown but picked up.

So we can blame the officiating, as well, if we're so inclined.

But Roethlisberger knows that's not what needed to happen in that sequence.

"We settled for three," he acknowledged. "That's disappointing because offensively we'd like to use the clock and finish that game off."

Failing that, it was up to the defense to preserve the Steelers' first lead since 3-0.

But the Chargers took the lead back in three snaps, the third of which turned into a 53-yard touchdown pass cornerback Cam Sutton attributed to a call that wasn't communicated and executed correctly.

"I know we got the lead late but, man, we needed to get off," the field in that situation, Cam Heyward lamented. "That's gonna bug me all week because we got a chance to really take this one away."

The chance evaporated on the 53-yard dagger and on a final Steelers' possession that commenced with 2:09 left in regulation and went backwards.

"We didn't seize it enough," Heyward assessed.

I think he was speaking for the defense, but the offense was just as culpable.

Through all the twists and turns and unlikely occurrences, the game was there to be won late in the fourth quarter.

Against Seattle they'd made the critical plays on both sides of the ball in overtime.

And against Chicago they'd responded as required after falling behind in a game they'd once led by 14 with less than two minutes remaining.

But for a second consecutive week the Steelers were unable to make the play or plays that needed to be made (one more might have done it against the Chargers) when a game was hanging in the balance (in overtime against Detroit and in the last 3:43 on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium).

That they battled back the way they did to even get themselves in such a position in a game they had trailed 27-10 with less than 15 minutes left in regulation was admirable.

It also wasn't enough.

Head coach Mike Tomlin emerged "very appreciative of the efforts of our guys."

But he also noted such efforts are "expected and required."

So is finishing.

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