Oh no and three: Steelers still winless after turnover-filled effort
PITTSBURGH – With less than 2 minutes remaining late Sunday night, a rare sight was witnessed at Heinz Field.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception – the fifth turnover of the game by Pittsburgh – and a loud cheer rang through the stadium. A large group of Chicago Bears fans gathered in the lower seating areas amid many empty golden seats were enjoying the moment.
It is not often an opposing team’s fans are numbered so greatly to be heard throughout Heinz Field. But, then, this hasn’t been a typical season in Pittsburgh.
The Bears responded to a Steelers comeback attempt in the second half by scoring two late touchdowns and sent Pittsburgh to its third straight loss to start the season with a 40-23 victory in a non-conference game.
The Steelers are now 0-3 for the first time since 2000 when they responded with a five-game winning streak and finished 9-7. But the way the 2013 Steelers are playing, winning any game is going to be difficult this year.
“You’re not going to win football games when you’re turning the ball in the manner in which we did,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It produced direct points. It produced other point opportunities. You’re not going to beat anybody in the NFL playing like that. We’ve got to get better. We know it.”
The five turnovers led almost directly to 24 Chicago Bears points.
n Roethlisberger was stripped of the ball on a sack by middle linebacker D.J. Williams in the first quarter, and James Anderson recovered the ball. It led to a 5-yard Matt Forte touchdown run.
n Roethlisberger was intercepted by safety Major Wright in the second quarter, and he returned the ball 38 yards for a touchdown.
n In the third quarter, running back Felix Jones fumbled and the Bears’ Henry Melton recovered it. It led to a 32-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
n Roethlisberger fumbled in the fourth quarter when hit by Lance Briggs, and the Bears’ Julius Peppers returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
n Safety Chris Conte intercepted Roethlisberger with 1:39 left in the game to seal the Bears’ win.
“We’ve got to take better care of the football,” Tomlin said. “We acknowledge that [the Bears] are one of the best in the world at getting [turnovers]. We talked about it all week, but it did change the outcome of the football game.”
The Steelers did show some fight late in the game after getting down 27-10 early in the third quarter. But the Bears calmly put together an impressive nine-play, 74-yard drive, converting three third downs, to thwart off a Pittsburgh comeback.
Leading just 27-23 with less than 6 minutes remaining in the game, Bears receiver Earl Bennett made a 17-yard catch in the back of the end zone where he dragged his toes on the playing surface before getting pushed out of bounds by the Steelers’ Shamarko Thomas.
The play was originally ruled incomplete, but the Bears smartly challenged the call and won. They then put the game away when Peppers raced into the end zone with Roethlisberger’s fumble with 4:09 remaining.
“[Cutler] came through when we needed him,” Peppers said. “That’s something that Coach [Marc Trestman] stresses and preaches. We needed him there, and he came through with some big throws. He’s been doing it all season, and that’s who he’s become.”
The Bears didn’t waste much time pouncing on the Steelers early in the game.
On their first possession, the Bears drove 51 yards on 13 plays and took a 3-0 advantage on Gould’s 47-yard field goal.
A few plays later, Williams blitzed and stripped Roethlisberger of the ball, and Anderson recovered it at the Pittsburgh 17-yard line. Forte scored on a 5-yard run four plays later.
After the Steelers went three and out, Forte broke a Ryan Clark tackle attempt and sprinted 55 yards to the Pittsburgh 5-yard line. Michael Bush then punched in another score on fourth and 1.
Down 17-0, the Steelers began the second quarter with a rarity for their offense – a 45-yard pickup on a Roethlisberger-to-Antonio Brown pass. The play led to a Shaun Suisham field goal to make the score 17-3.
After the Steelers defense held the Bears, the Steelers offense gave up a score when Roethlisberger overthrew Jerricho Cotchery, and Wright intercepted the ball and ran it back 38 yards to put the Bears up 24-3 early in the second quarter.
The Steelers appeared to be going down without a fight but caught a break when Chicago’s Anthony Walters slammed into Pittsburgh punter Zoltan Mesko and was called for roughing. The Steelers took advantage of the penalty when Roethlisberger threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brown to make it 24-10 at the half.
By the time the fans had a chance to return to their seats after intermission the Steelers committed another turnover. Jones coughed up the ball on the second offensive play of the third quarter, and Melton’s recovery led to another Gould field goal.
The Steelers then began to work their way back with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that received some boos when they settled for a Suisham field goal to make it 27-13.
The Steelers then put together probably their best drive of the season with two long passes to Heath Miller and Cotchery to get to the Chicago 21. Brown then made a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone on a Roethlisberger pass to slice the Chicago lead to 27-20 heading to the fourth quarter.
Brown finished with nine catches for 196 yards, and Roethlisberger threw for 406.
The Steelers chipped into the lead again with an 11-play, 52-yard drive that culminated with a Suisham 44-yard field goal to make it 27-23 with 10:38 left in the game. But the comeback attempt was quickly swiped away by the Bears.
“We have to find a way to win,” Brown said. “Our theme this year is winning, winning. If we don’t win, nothing really matters.”