From News Services
PITTSBURGH - No matter what the score is, the Chargers are almost always on the wrong end of it when in Pittsburgh.
The final score Sunday was 11-10 -- a first in NFL history -- and the loss, which dropped San Diego to 0-13 in regular-season games here, was courtesy of Jeff Reed's third field goal, a 32-yarder with 11 seconds left.
It's the Chargers' third last-minute loss this season. The defending AFC West champs fell to 4-6, two games back of first-place Denver and in danger of missing the playoffs.
"It's just frustrating when you know that that's not the San Diego Chargers," said tight end Antonio Gates, who had just two catches for 10 yards. "The Pittsburgh Steelers have a great defense, but that's not how we play football offensively."
A snow squall about 45 minutes before the late-afternoon kickoff coated Heinz Field on a breezy, 35-degree day that began with a wind chill of 26. The conditions were a reminder of the warm-weather Chargers' struggles in Pittsburgh, where they have never won a regular-season game, although they are 2-0 here in the playoffs.
"I like playing on grass, mud -- anything that slows down an offense," Steelers linebacker James Harrison said.
The Steelers outgained the Chargers 410 yards to 213, and most teams with a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver normally have plenty of offense.
But the Steelers couldn't get into the end zone, even as Ben Roethlisberger went 31 of 41 for 308 yards against the NFL's worst passing defense, finding receiver Hines Ward often and handing off to Willie Parker for 115 yards on the ground.
It was partly because they had 13 penalties for 115 yards to San Diego's two for 5 yards. Also, running back Mewelde Moore was stopped from a foot out on a fourth-and-goal play late in the first quarter.
"It was weird," said Ward, who had 124 yards on 11 catches. "We definitely have to work on our offense."
Pittsburgh regained first place in the AFC North in part because Roethlisberger wasn't intercepted after being picked off eight times, with only one touchdown pass, in his previous three games, including seven interceptions in successive home-field losses to the Colts and Giants.
The Chargers, coming off a 20-19 win over Kansas City that followed three losses in four games, led 7-0 after LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 3-yard run midway through the first period, his first touchdown run in 93 carries. He ended with 57 yards on 18 carries.
San Diego began that drive at its 41 after Reed couldn't hit from 51 yards on the slippery turf, his first miss in 20 tries.
The Steelers cut it to 7-2 when Harrison sacked Philip Rivers on third-and-9 from the 3, forcing a fumble that left tackle Marcus McNeill recovered in the end zone for a safety.
Later in the second quarter, Harrison intercepted Rivers on a first-down play that began at the Steelers 17 -- a big swing in momentum. Reed's 21-yard field goal came on the final play before halftime, and his 41-yarder in the third quarter gave Pittsburgh its first lead.
Rivers, the AFC's most efficient quarterback coming in, finished 15 of 26 for 159 yards and two interceptions, even though Pittsburgh was missing two of its top three cornerbacks.
"Any time a defense gives up nine points, we should win the game," he said.
Nate Kaeding put San Diego up 10-8 with a 22-yard field goal with 6:41 to play, after missing from the 41 in the third quarter at Heinz Field's open end, where breezes blowing off the nearby three rivers cause tricky kicking conditions.
The Chargers had one last chance for a miracle on the final play, trying to lateral the ball, but safety Troy Polamalu picked up an errant lateral and took it into the end zone. However, the play was overturned on review -- it was called an illegal forward pass.
After the game, referee Scott Green said the officials realized the TD should have counted.
Published: Monday, November 17, 2008