Midway through the third quarter of the Steelers-Chargers game on Sunday night, I started pounding away at a post dedicated to how Pittsburgh silenced its critics with a dominating victory over San Diego.
Seriously, I was finished outside of adding the final score and some stats. And it was good too. It was about how the Steelers got back to their grass roots while running the ball down the Chargers’ throats, controlling the time of possession and finally playing four quarters. At the time, Pittsburgh was up 28-0 and the game was essentially over as San Diego was on life support.
Then Jacob Hester made an incredible play early in the fourth when he stripped Stefan Logan on a punt return and raced 41 yards into the end zone to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 28-14.
No problem I thought, a couple extra sentences ought to cover me as the Steelers answered Hester’s touchdown with one of their own to make it 35-14.
Then the journalism gods decided to punish me for writing a recap when the freaking game wasn’t even finished, because the Chargers got within one touchdown of the Steelers late in the fourth before Pittsburgh iced the game with a 46-yard Jeff Reed field goal to give the Steelers a 38-28 victory.
In reality, not much changed from the time the Steelers were up 28-0 to the time they walked away with a 38-28 win. They still dominated a hapless San Diego run defense by racking up 177 yards on the ground (Rashard Mendenhall finally strapped on the big boy pants and rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries) and kept the ball for 40 minutes and 20 seconds, compared to the Chargers’ 19 minutes and 40 seconds.
Pittsburgh dominated this game, but it can’t sit well with Mike Tomlin that his team nearly had another fourth quarter collapse. The Steelers can’t figure out a way to put their opponents away and I don’t know if that’s coaching or if the players are at fault for letting up. Either way, it’s a troubling sign so far for a defending Super Bowl champion that has split its first four games of the season and has looked rather mediocre.
Nevertheless, the Steelers earned their second victory of the year and did so by running the ball. Granted, Ben Roethlisberger looked great and the pass protection was outstanding, but this is a team that needs to run the football when the weather starts to turn and Pittsburgh did so tonight.
As for the Chargers, I applaud them for making it close in the end, but Norv Turner’s bunch didn’t show up until seven minutes left in the third when Hester gave them a spark. They were completely dominated in most phases of the game and all of a sudden they have zero running game. For a team that was supposed to walk away with the AFC West, San Diego barely looks like a .500 team right now.