Steelers Show They Can't Be Trusted in Catastrophic Loss to the Chargers

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 3, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) puts on his helmet as he goes in to play against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

If there is one thing we know, more than anything, about the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is this: They can't be trusted.     

They will likely win the AFC North. They are fun. They are explosive. They are also totally and completely untrustworthy.

They are smart, then they are dumb. They are explosive, then they are flat. They dominate, then they collapse. They bash their opponents, then they conquer themselves. They are well-coached, then they are poorly coached. The quarterback is Joe Montana, then he is Joe Flacco.

They are an opposing team's worst nightmare, then they're its reason for hope, following up moments of brilliance with stretches of self-immolation.

The Steelers could win the Super Bowl. The Steelers could lose in the first round of the playoffs.

What their catastrophic loss to the Chargers on Sunday showed, or reminded us of, is that the Steelers are a mess. (Unless it was the first half, when they were terrific.)

The game, won by Los Angeles 33-30, was symbolic of this team. Which is incredible. And pure junk. The Steelers led 23-7 at the half and had totally dominated a good Chargers team. Antonio Brown had six catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. At the half.

Then came the second half and the mirror-universe Steelers.

And then the ending...so typical of this team. The Chargers missed a game-winning field goal...but the Steelers were offsides.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers kicks the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsbur
Justin Berl/Getty Images

Then Los Angeles lined up for another kick, and this time it was blocked. But wait, there's more. The Steelers were again offsides.

It was one of the most dramatic, and pathetic, moments in recent Steelers regular-season history.

The third time the Chargers kicked it, the ball sailed through, and the Steelers lost.

But in a symbolic move, the Steelers were offsides again. The Chargers, of course, declined the penalty.

Typical of these Steelers. Missed kick, but offsides. Athletic play to block a field goal, but offsides.

Before Sunday night's loss, the Steelers were 220-0-2 when leading by at least 14 points during the regular season at home.

Typically, they lost what seemed to be a game that was impossible to lose.

The Steelers' game plan in the first half was brilliant. On offense, they were able to free up Brown, and on defense, they locked down Philip Rivers and that passing game.

You knew it was only a matter of time before the Chargers would make a run, and they did. What you didn't expect (and maybe should have) was the series of dunderheaded mistakes the Steelers would make. One of them was yet another ill-advised challenge from coach Mike Tomlin, on where the football was spotted. Replays showed the spot was clearly accurate.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts in the second half during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Another was not finding a way to at least slow Keenan Allen, who exploded for 148 yards on 14 catches. We see other teams do this to stars. The Patriots limited Adam Thielen on Sunday. In the second half of the Sunday night's game, the Chargers found a way to slow Brown. Where were the Steelers' adjustments on Allen?

"You can't play bad football against a good football team," Ben Roethlisberger told reporters after the game.

Pittsburgh has long been an undisciplined team under Tomlin. He's a talented and good coach, but he has never been able to instill discipline with the Steelers, and it has cost them repeatedly.

Eventually, consistent sloppiness will get you, one way or another.

And that is the core of the problem with the Steelers, and why they can't be trusted. They don't seem to care about fixing mental errors. The turnovers and mistakes are a feature, not a bug.

The Steelers did get hurt by terrible officiating. That is true. But the Steelers didn't lose because of the refs. The Steelers lost because of the Steelers.

In the end, the Steelers can't be trusted.

Unless they can be. Maybe. Depending on the day.

Or the half.

      

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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