Perhaps Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will take solace in the fact that his head won’t be the only one fans will want this week after his team blew a 23-7 third quarter lead and fell to the Chargers, 33-30, Sunday night before a shocked and dismayed crowd at Heinz Field.
The other heads belong to the game-day officials, who apparently forgot to pack their eyes, considering they missed two blatant penalties on plays that went for Los Angeles touchdowns.
If that’s going to be the narrative this week—”The refs cost us the game!”—you better get Morgan Freeman to narrate because that’s the only way I will buy it.
Yes, Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi got an early jump and absolutely should have been flagged for a false start on a play that went for a 46-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin in the first quarter (Tevi actually got quite a few early jumps on the night). Yes, what’s his face blocked Brian Allen in the back on a punt that was returned for a 73-yard touchdown by Desmond King in the fourth quarter.
Yes, that’s 15 points practically gift-wrapped by the officials to the Chargers in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.
But had the Steelers handled their own business, those 15 points would have been as damaging as a funnel cloud in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw his weekly red zone/end zone interception in the second quarter—he could have thrown that pass with his left hand, and it wouldn’t have looked any worse—Pittsburgh likely would have turned its 13-7 lead into a 16-7 or 20-7 advantage.
Later in the second quarter, if Big Ben didn’t turn into September Ben by overthrowing a wide-open Justin Hunter on a play that should have gone for a 34-yard touchdown, the Steelers would have turned their 13-7 lead into a 20-7 lead. And the lead would have quickly grown to a 27-7 halftime advantage following Roethlisberger’s spectacular touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, who was, you guessed it, covered by a lot of people. (And, to reiterate, the lead likely would have been even bigger, if not for the aforementioned left-handed interception by Santa Ben earlier in the quarter.)
That’s anywhere from three to 11 points that were left on the field, thanks to two terrible throws by the franchise quarterback.
Speaking of Roethlisberger’s head-scratching interception, it once again left the Steelers on the negative side of the plus/minus turnover ratio. Why? Because their defense failed to leave a stadium with one for the umpteenth time in 2018. But the team could have broke even—and prevented a touchdown, in the process—had safety Sean Davis not done his best Donnie Shell impression (it was Steelers Alumni Weekend) by bashing into cornerback Joe Haden and turning his end zone interception into a deflection that fell into the waiting arms of receiver Keenan Allen late in the third quarter.
If you’re still scoring at home, that’s anywhere from three to 19 points the Steelers either could have scored or prevented in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Chris Boswell's miss of an extra point (again) following James Conner's second touchdown, a miss that likely would have changed many scenarios in the second half.
So, the final tally: anywhere from four to 19 that could have been scored or prevented in a game that was decided by an untimed field goal.
So, yes, my friend, the officials gift-wrapped Los Angeles a lot of points, but the Steelers were also in quite the giving mood (for the second week in a row, actually), and that, more than anything else, is why they lost.