Though the 34-24 final would not indicate it, the Chargers dominated the Steelers from the start in what was a complete team loss for Pittsburgh.
Ben Roethlisberger was not sharp, completing only 22 of 42 passes with an interception and a “lateral” that both resulted in San Diego touchdowns.
A major reason why Roethlisberger struggled was the complete lack of protection. As well as the offensive line played last week against the Baltimore Ravens was as poor as they were this week.
Not only did the line not protect Roethlisberger, they opened up no room for the running backs. It was not until garbage time in the fourth quarter before Jonathan Dwyer carried the ball for a couple of nice runs.
Things weren’t much better on the defensive side of the ball, as the defense could not get off of the field.
They allowed the Chargers to convert on 12 of 22 third-down attempts, including four to receiver Micheal Spurlock. As a result, San Diego controlled the ball for 36:46.
But nothing summed up the game more than the Chargers’ 17-play, 78-yard drive that consumed 9:32 of the clock to give them a 20-3 lead.
It was reminiscent of earlier in the season, when the defense struggled to get pressure and force turnovers—two things they did not do against San Diego.
The special teams unit was not off the hook, either.
Once again, penalties plagued the Steelers in the return game, and they failed to recognize a fake punt that the Chargers executed on a 4th-and-2 late in the third quarter.
Drew Butler struggled in the punting game as well. If you take out his 79-yard punt, he averaged only 42.2 yards on six punts.
It was just a sad display all around.
This was a game that the Steelers should have easily walked.
They were playing at home against a west-coast team that has a lame duck head coach and had to travel across the country.
Pittsburgh was also coming off of a huge division win against the Ravens with Charlie Batch at quarterback, and they were getting Roethlisberger back.
Who was most to blame for the loss to the Chargers?
They also did not seem prepared at all for what the Chargers were bringing on offense, defense or special teams.
That comes down to preparation and coaching.
Mike Tomlin once again failed to prepare his team for a game against an opponent with a losing record.
It is December football, and the Steelers have to be better. This is not a team that looked to be prepared to properly execute against a team they should have dominated.
The offense never got in sync, and the defense struggled against a team with a poor offensive line and a turnover-prone quarterback.
But even when the Steelers had a chance to make it a two-score game by attempting a two-point conversion, Tomlin elected to take the extra point to keep the score within 17 points—yet they attempted multiple onside kicks (albeit poor attempts).
Blowouts at home have been few and far between for Tomlin, but this one was inexcusable and one that could come back and haunt the Steelers.
Tomlin had better get back to the lab and get his team fixed quickly. The rest of the schedule does not get any easier, and every game matters as the Steelers try for a return trip to the playoffs.