The Steelers saw a 23-7 halftime lead disappear, falling to the Los Angeles Chargers, 33-30, on a field goal with no time left on the clock.
The loss has the Steelers at 7-4-1, still holding on to first place in the AFC North, just a half-game ahead of Baltimore, 7-5.
“We’ve got to win those, we didn’t,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “The consequences…we’ll absorb it. We’ll be back.”
The Chargers had 23 unanswered points in the second half, taking a 30-23 lead.
The Steelers tied it at 30-30 with 4:10 to play when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jaylen Samuels for a 10-yard touchdown.
But the Chargers wouldn’t go away. Philip Rivers drove them down to the 21-yard line, where kicker Michael Badgley had three opportunities to make a field goal. His 39-yard attempt went wide left, but Joe Haden was offsides. A 34-yard attempt was blocked by Artie Burns, who was flagged for offsides on the play. The third attempt, a 29-yarder, gave the Chargers the win.
“We didn’t get it done today,” said Antonio Brown, who had 10 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. “No excuses need to be made.”
Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 29 of 45 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, said he should have played better and summed it up simply.
“Bad loss,” said Roethlisberger.
Injuries also mounted for the Steelers in the game, including James Conner leaving in the fourth quarter with a lower leg contusion.
Things looked good for the Steelers early on when they came out with a quick strike on their first drive to take an early lead. Roethlisberger was two for two for 55 yards, all of it to Antonio Brown, including a 46-yarder to the one-yard line. James Conner punched it in from the one to give the Steelers the 7-0 lead.
A relentless defense got the best of the Chargers on the next possession. Terrell Edmunds stopped Austin Ekeler for no gain, then sacked Rivers for a nine-yard loss. On third down T.J. Watt brought the pressure, and Mike Hilton broke up Rivers’ pass to force the punt.
The offense stayed hot on the ensuing drive. Roethlisberger hit Brown for 12 yards, Conner added seven yards on two carries. They benefitted greatly by a pass interference call on Michael Davis in the end zone, a 28-yard penalty that gave them the ball at the one-yard line. Conner once again took it in from the one-yard line, extending the lead to 13-0 after Chris Boswell missed the extra point.
The Chargers got on the board on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Travis Benjamin on a play where it appeared everyone in Heinz Field except the officials saw right tackle Sam Tevi move before the play. The play pulled the Chargers to within a score, 13-7.
The Steelers were moving the ball on their next drive, converting on three third downs, and moving the ball down to the Chargers 22-yard line. Roethlisberger threw it up for Vance McDonald, but Darwin James intercepted it at the eight-yard line and returned it to the 21-yard line after a penalty on the return.
A fired-up defense came after the Chargers on the next series, giving them nowhere to run, and shutting down the pass with tight coverage. And then special teams did their part when L.J. Fort blocked the punt, and Jordan Dangerfield recovered at the Chargers 34-yard line.
Roethlisberger couldn’t connect with a wide-open Justin Hunter, overthrowing him on what would have been a touchdown. The Steelers had to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Boswell, extending the lead to 16-7.
After another big defensive stop the Steelers got the ball back at the nine-yard line with 1:39 to play. Conner got them out of the hole with a 20-yard run, and a 16-yard completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster took the ball to the Steelers 49-yard line. A pass interference call gave the Steelers a first down at the 28-yard line. Roethlisberger threw a missile to Brown in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown, sending them into halftime ahead, 23-7.
The Chargers struck first in the third quarter when Rivers took them on a 13-play, 88-yard drive that ate up 8:07 on the clock. A near interception turned into a touchdown when Sean Davis and Joe Haden collided in the end zone, and the ball bounced into Keenan Allen’s hands for the 10-yard touchdown. Rivers hit Antonio Gates on the two-point conversion attempt to cut the lead to 23-15.
After the Steelers offense went three-and-out, the Chargers special teams came up huge. Desmond King returned the punt 73 yards for a touchdown, and Rivers connected with Allen for the two-point conversion to tie the game, 23-23.
The Chargers took their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter on a seven-play, 79-yard drive, that culminated in an 18-yard touchdown run by Justin Jackson to go ahead, 30-23.
With their backs against the wall the offense got on a roll. On a fourth-and-one, Conner took it for two yards to move the chains. A personal foul call on a hit on Ryan Switzer gave the Steelers another first down. Roethlisberger hit Conner for 10 yards, but he was hurt on the play and helped off the field. Jaylen Samuels came in and Roethlisberger hit him for a 10-yard touchdown to tie the game, 30-30.
Badgley’s 29-yard field goal, with no time on the clock, gave the Chargers the 33-30 win.
A look at how they scored:
First Quarter: Steelers 7, Chargers 0
Scoring Play: James Conner one-yard touchdown.
Scoring Summary: 4-58-1:59
First Quarter: Steelers 13, Chargers 0
Scoring Play: James Conner one-yard touchdown. Kick wide left.
Scoring Summary: 4-48-3:01
First Quarter: Steelers 13, Chargers 7
Scoring Play: Philip Rivers 46-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin.
Scoring Summary: 6-75-3:37
Second Quarter: Steelers 16, Chargers 7
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 48-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 4-4-0:59
Second Quarter: Steelers 23, Chargers 7
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 28-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 6-91-1:18
Third Quarter: Steelers 23, Chargers 15
Scoring Play: Philip Rivers 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen. Rivers to Antonio Gates for two-point conversion.
Scoring Summary: 13-88-8:07
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 23, Chargers 23
Scoring Play: Desmond Kind 73-yard punt return for a touchdown. Rivers to Keenan Allen for two-point conversion.
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 23, Chargers 30
Scoring Play: Justin Jackson 18-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 7-79-3:51
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 30, Chargers 30
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 10-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Samuels
Scoring Summary: 12-78-3:59
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 30, Chargers 33
Scoring Play: Michael Badgley 29-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 11-64-4:10