By Teresa Varley
The Steelers came from behind to defeat the San Diego Chargers 11-10 at Heinz Field to improve their record to 7-3 and take back sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Jeff Reed hit three field goals and James Harrison was credited with a safety to lead the team to the win.
A late drive by the Steelers offense, which ended in Reed's third field goal of the day, sealed the victory with just seconds remaining on the clock.
"We faced some adversity, some adverse situations throughout the game," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I thought that this was just a great team effort. Defensively, of course, we made significant plays; particularly early on that kept us in the football game. The sequence just prior to halftime was big-time.
"James Harrison continues to make splash play after splash play for us; he is one of the main reasons that we were successful today. Offensively, to take the ball the length of the field at the end to provide us with the win was big-time stuff.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 41 passes for 308 yards, while Hines Ward was on the receiving end of 11 of those passes for 124 yards. Willie Parker returned to the lineup after missing the Colts game with a shoulder injury and carried the ball 25 times for 115 yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson had no where to go on his first carry, stopped after just picking up a yard to open the game. The Chargers quickly went to the air, with Philip Rivers hitting Antonio Gates for six yards and then finding Chris Chambers for nine yards and a first down. Rivers went to the well one time too many, though, and Troy Polamalu made him pay when he scooped up the ball just as it was about to hit the ground and came up with the interception.
Parker returned to the lineup and started things off with a four-yard carry. Roethlisberger opened it up with a 17-yard completion to Ward to the Chargers 38-yard line. Roethlisberger couldn't connect with Santonio Holmes on the next play and then was sacked for an eight-yard loss. On third-and-18 Mewelde Moore pulled in a 13-yard reception, but was stopped short of a first down. Jeff Reed came on for a 51-yard field goal attempt, but it went wide left and the Steelers came away empty.
The Chargers came back strong on their next drive. Tomlinson got some running room for a 12-yard gain and Rivers hit Brandon Manumaleuna for a 17-yard gain to the Steelers 24-yard line. Tomlinson went up the middle for two yards and on second-and-eight Rivers went deep for Vincent Jackson, but Ike Taylor was called for defensive pass interference, giving the Chargers the ball at the three-yard line. Tomlinson was able to punch it into the end zone for the three-yard touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead.
The offense got moving for the Steelers on the next drive. Parker rattled off a 10-yard run and Roethlisberger hit Matt Spaeth for a seven-yard gain. Parker took it up the middle for 13 yards followed by Ward making some key moves and shaking off defenders for a 30-yard reception to the eight-yard line. Parker took it to the four-yard line, but the Steelers lost those yards when Roethlisberger was sacked back to the eight-yard line. On third-and-goal Roethlisberger hit Nate Washington for a seven-yard gain to the one-yard line. They went for it on fourth down, but Moore was knocked for a one-yard loss, turning the ball over on downs.
"Obviously we are going to continue to struggle a little bit until we become consistent in short yardage and goal-line," said Tomlin. "We have to be able to run the ball effectively on people in those situations. We will remain un-waivered with the standards in regards to that."
It was the Steelers defense that would step up big next. Tomlinson had a one yard gain and then Rivers was forced to throw the ball away under pressure. On third and nine Rivers was sacked in the end zone by James Harrison, forcing a fumble which tackle Marcus McNeil recovered in the end zone where Harrison tackled him for a safety.
The Steelers took over at their own six-yard line after the free kick and Parker got them some breathing room with a six-yard carry. Roethlisberger connected with Ward for nine yards and Washington for seven yards to the 29-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Moore for four yards and Parker went for two, but Ward was called for a 10-yard holding penalty pushing the ball back to the 25-yard line. Consecutive four yard gains gave the Steelers third-and-10 from the 33-yard line, where Roethlisberger was sacked for a nine-yard loss.
After a short punt the Chargers took over at their own 46-yard line. Tomlinson went off left tackle for eight yards and came back with a seven-yard carry off right tackle. The Chargers remained on the ground with Tomlinson gaining two yards, but he was knocked for a four-yard loss on the next play. A false start penalty pushed them back five more yards and an incompletion on third down forced the Chargers to punt.
Tight end Sean McHugh had a nice catch and run for a 15-yard gain to get the next driving started off strong. Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Ward, but rebounded with a nine-yard completion to him. On third-and-one Parker was stopped for no gain and the Steelers had to punt.
Anthony Smith was called for fair-catch interference on the punt, giving the Chargers the ball at the Chargers 40-yard line. Rivers hit Jackson for eight yards, but the defense shut them down, with LaMarr Woodley knocking Tomlinson for a three-yard loss and Brett Keisel sacking Rivers for a nine-yard loss.
The Steelers got the ball right back in their hands, but weren't able to do anything with it, going three and out and giving the Chargers one last shot before the half, one they weren't able to take advantage of thanks to an interception by Harrison at the 10-yard line followed by a 33-yard return to the Steelers 43-yard line.
This time the offense was able to capitalize on the turnover, driving down to the three-yard line where Reed came on for a 21-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-5.
Things continued to swing in the Steelers favor when they took the kickoff to start the second half and moved the ball down the field culminating in a 41-yard field goal by Reed to give the Steelers their first lead of the game at 8-7.
The Chargers struggled to get rolling on their next drive with an incompletion to Jackson and Tomlinson being stopped for just a one-yard gain. But on third-and-nine Rivers hit Tomlinson in the flat and he broke free for a 26-yard gain down the right sideline. Rivers connected with Darren Sproles for nine yards and Legedu Naanee for eight yards. The defense tightened up knocking Tomlinson for a one-yard loss and forcing Rivers to throw the ball away. Nate Kaeding could have given the Chargers the lead back, but his 42-yard field goal went wide right.
The offense continued to move the ball with Roethlisberger hitting Spaeth for eight yards and Parker going off left tackle for nine. Gary Russell came through with a four-yard carry on third-and-one for a much needed conversion. Roethlisberger connected with Spaeth for 11 yards and another first down to the San Diego 34-yard line. After an incompletion and a short gain by Parker, Roethlisberger was sacked for a one-yard loss to force the punt.
The Chargers took over at their 18-yard line and had an efficient mix of the run and pass to produce a 17-play, 78 yard drive that ended with Kaeding hitting a 22-yard field goal to give the Chargers the lead back at 10-8.
With the pressure on, Roethlisberger went to work. He hit Ward for 10 yards and then Parker went up the middle for four yards. Roethlisberger went right back to Ward for 15 yards to the Chargers 45-yard line. A holding call on Ward pushed the ball back to the Steelers 45-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Ward for seven yards and Spaeth for another seven to the Chargers 41 yard line. On third down Roethlisberger hit Ward for another seven yards and a first down. Holmes pulled in a 13-yard reception at the 21-yard line. Parker took it into the end zone, but a holding call negated the touchdown. Reed came on for the game-winning field goal.