The Pittsburgh Steelers could have expected a win over a San Diego Chargers team that had lost four straight, but instead they were pounded on both sides of the ball in a 34-24 loss that wasn't as close as the scoreline would indicate.
Pittsburgh trailed 27-3 before Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns as the team struggled offensively. It was Roethlisberger's return to action, but as Behind the Steel Curtain wrote, his 285-yard, three-touchdown outing wasn't what the team was hoping for after going 1-1 with Charlie Batch at the helm:
While that line would be more than sufficient on most Sunday afternoons, it is not truthfully indicative of Roethlisberger's afternoon. Most of his yardage, and all three touchdowns, came in the second half as the Chargers played in a prevent defense, as they clung to a sizable lead.
Roethlisberger showed his rust as the game began, proving that chemistry between a passer and his receivers is something developed through repetition. However, Ben was not to blame for all of the offense's woes; his receivers didn't do him many favors in the first half, either.
On defense, Pittsburgh held San Diego to only 2.6 yards per carry, but Philip Rivers tossed three touchdowns against an inexperienced Steelers' secondary playing without the injured Ike Taylor.
When Taylor fell to a fractured ankle early in week thirteen's win in Baltimore, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown did an admirable job of stepping up, in standard "standard" fashion. Unfortunately, their performances on Sunday warranted far less exultation.
But the issues might be deeper than individual breakdowns: One Behind the Steel Curtain author summed up the problems with the team with a simple diagnosis:
There is something wrong fundamentally with the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers are now 7-6, having missed an opportunity to move a game up on the Bengals for the second wild card spot.