The Pittsburgh Steelers made a valiant comeback, but could not complete it, losing 41-37 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.
The Steelers trailed by 17 points in the fourth quarter, but got a blocked punt and an interception around touchdowns by Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth and a Chris Boswell field goal to take the lead with 3:29 to play.
But the Chargers answered right back, with Justin Herbert leading a three-play scoring drive capped by a 53-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Mike Williams on a busted coverage by the Pittsburgh secondary.
Trailing by four late, the Steelers offensive line couldn’t withstand the Los Angeles pass rush, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice and threw incomplete on third and fourth downs.
The Steelers’ shorthanded defense, missing lineman Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt, linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden, was shredded by Herbert throughout most of the night.
The second-year phenom threw 41 times, completing 30 for 382 yards and three touchdowns. Keenan Allen was his most prolific target, with nine catches for 112 yards. Austin Ekeler was also dangerous out for the backfield, catching six passes for 65 yards and two scores to go with his 50 rushing yards and two ground scores.
The Steelers’ offensive did its best to keep up through much of the game, with Roethlisberger hitting Diontae Johnson on an end zone fade in the second quarter to bring the Steelers to within four.
But the Chargers to three straight scores around the halftime break to build the 17-point advantage while Pittsburgh struggled on both sides of the ball.
After Chris Boswell field goal, Miles Killebrew blocked a Los Angeles punt to set up a 1-yard Najee Harris touchdown that cut the lead to seven. Ekeler responded with a score, but Roethlisberger led a nine-play drive that ended in Ebron’s score.
Then the defense stepped up, with Cam Heyward batting Herbert’s pass in the air and Cam Sutton coming up with an interception. Roethlisberger capped that drive with a five-yard screen pass to Freiermuth for a game-tying touchdown.
He finished 28 of 44 for 273 yards and three scores. He was sacked three times, including twice on the final offensive drive.
Harris added just 39 yards on 12 carries as the Pittsburgh ground game was completely bottled up by the Chargers defense. Johnson led the Steelers’ receivers with seven catches for 101 yards.
The Steelers’ five-game unbeaten streak was snapped with the loss. They’ll stay on the road next week for a trip to AFC North rival Cincinnati.