CHARGERS 34, STEELERS 24**
Steelers' record: 7-6
One year ago: 10-3
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 22-9
They could not afford any givebacks. Not at this stage of the season. Not in the midst of a five-week fight for their playoff lives. As inspirational and beneficial as their win in Baltimore was last Sunday to start the five-week sprint, the Steelers had to know they would cancel all of that out by losing at home to the 4-8 Chargers. These Steelers had shown a tendency to lose to some of the league's bottom-feeders, but the games against the Raiders and Titans were on the road. This one was at home.
The Steelers were losing to the Chargers at halftime, but the margin was just 13-3. The start of the second half is always a point of emphasis for Coach Mike Tomlin, and the Chargers are a team that has blown several leads in the second halves of games already this season. But in that situation, the Chargers drove 78 yards in 17 plays for a touchdown to take a 20-3 lead, and they also ate nine-and-a-half minutes of clock to do it.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
From 2005-10, West Coast teams playing in 1 p.m. games on the East Coast were 45-94. Over that span, the Chargers were 10-16. Following their win over the Steelers, the Chargers now are 1-2 in that situation this season.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
In the three games before coming to Pittsburgh, the Chargers converted a combined 10-of-43 on third downs. Against the Steelers, who came into the game ranked No. 4 in the NFL in third down conversions allowed, the Chargers converted 12-of-22, with two of their failures coming after they had built a 34-10 lead.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* It was a third-and-12 late in the first quarter when Plaxico Burress made his first catch of his second stint with the Steelers. He ran a slant and caught an 18-yard pass in traffic for the first down.
- On a third-and-1 early in the second quarter, Casey Hampton and Cortez Allen teamed up to drop Chargers RB Jackie Battle for a 1-yard loss to force a San Diego punt.
- The 40-yard touchdown pass that Ben Roethlisberger threw to Mike Wallace late in the third quarter was the 14th time the two of them had hooked up on a scoring play of at least 40 yards. And before he made the throw, Roethlisberger first shrugged off the rush of OLB Larry English.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* On a third-and-1 on their second possession of the game, Isaac Redman lined up 8 yards deep in the backfield and then was stopped for no gain. The Steelers punted for the second time.
- The Chargers were looking at a third-and-10 from the Steelers 44-yard line late in the first quarter, when Troy Polamalu jumped offside, and then on the next play James Harrison jumped offside to allow San Diego to convert. Three plays later, Nick Novak kicked a 51-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 3-0 lead.
- Twenty-one minutes into the game, the Chargers were winning the battle of field position. To that point, San Diego was able to begin possessions at its 40-yard line, 31-yard line and the Pittsburgh 48-yard line. The Steelers started at their 20-yard line, 8-yard line, 21-yard line, 9-yard line and 7-yard line.
- On a second-and-5 from their own 12-yard line midway through the second quarter, the Steelers had their best opportunity to that point in the game for a big play on offense. Mike Wallace got behind CB Quentin Jammer, but Wallace couldn't bring the ball in.
- Ending the first half strong and starting the second half strong are things that Coach Mike Tomlin believes are important to putting together a winning performance. For the eighth time this season, the Steelers scored to end the first half, this time on a 49-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, but the defense didn't hold up its end to start the third quarter. The Chargers took the second half kickoff and drove 78 yards in 17 plays by converting 5-for-5 on third downs. And just as damaging to the Steelers as the touchdown that San Diego scored to take a 20-3 lead was the 9 minutes and 32 seconds the Chargers used off the third quarter clock.
- Bad to worse: On the ensuing kickoff, a holding penalty on Cameron Heyward made the offense start their possession at their own 8-yard line. On the first play, the Steelers attempted one of those quick sideline screens, this one to Antonio Brown. But on the play, Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson drove TE David Paulson straight back and into path of the ball. The ball hit Paulson in the back and bounced into the end zone, where Quentin Jammer fell on it for the touchdown that upped the Chargers lead to 27-3.
- It was fourth-and-2 for the Chargers at their own 28-yard line late in the third quarter of a 27-10 game, and San Diego did what 4-8 teams are wont to do. From punt formation, the Chargers snapped the ball to up-back Eric Weddle, who got out and around the left side for 4 yards and a first down.
- The Steelers committed eight penalties that were accepted by the Chargers – two defensive penalties, both offside; four offensive penalties – two for holding, one false start, and one illegal hands to the face; and two special teams penalties – both for holding.
MULTIPLE SOURCES: KUGLER TO UTEP
According to multiple sources in both Pittsburgh and El Paso, Texas, Sean Kugler will be hired as the next head football coach at his alma mater, UTEP. Kugler, 46, who is in his third season as the Steelers offensive line coach, will replace Mike Price, 66, who retired after nine seasons in that job.
It is believed that Kugler will finish the season with the Steelers before assuming his new duties at UTEP, which will include trying to resurrect a program that has not won a bowl game since the 1967 Sun Bowl, a program that was 40-45 under Price, 3-9 in 2011.
UTEP's most recent run of success was in the late 1980s under current athletic director Bob Stull, and Kugler's final three seasons as an offensive lineman there coincided with the first three seasons of Stull's coaching career at the school. In 1988, Kugler's final college season, UTEP finished 10-3 and played in the Independence Bowl.
After graduating from UTEP, Kugler was a graduate assistant at the school in 1993, the tight ends coach there in 1994 and the Miners' offensive line coach from 1995-2000.