Officially a bad loss: Steelers squander big lead in 2nd half

PITTSBURGH — Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play to lift the Los Angeles Chargers to a 33-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Badgley initially missed a 39-yard kick but Pittsburgh was called for offsides. Badgley’s ensuing 34-yard attempt was blocked, but the Steelers were again flagged for jumping across the line of scrimmage before the snap. He drilled his third attempt at the game-winner, and the Chargers gleefully declined another Pittsburgh penalty while they poured onto the field in celebration.

Philip Rivers completed 26 of 36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns for Los Angeles (9-3). Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a score and Justin Jackson ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in place of injured starter Melvin Gordon. Desmond King added a 73-yard punt return for a score as the Chargers erased a 16-point halftime deficit.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and two scores for the Steelers (7-4-1), who have lost two straight and are now clinging to the AFC North lead over surging Baltimore. Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for a season-high 154 yards and a touchdown. James Conner added 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.

Rookie Jaylen Samuels replaced Conner and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 remaining that tied the game at 30, leaving Rivers ample time to one-up Roethlisberger, a fellow member of the vaunted 2004 draft class that includes New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Rivers calmly led the Chargers 64 yards in 11 plays, including a 12-yard pass to Allen on third-and-4 at the Pittsburgh 34 that pushed Los Angeles close enough to win in the Steel City for just the fourth time in 19 tries while giving the Steelers their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Roethlisberger publicly tweaked Brown following a loss to Denver last week, though the star wide receiver stressed he knew it was nothing personal. It certainly didn’t seem to have an impact on their play. Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 9-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second play from scrimmage and again for 46 yards on the following snap, a strike that set up the first of Conner’s two 1-yard touchdown runs in the opening quarter.

The Steelers seemed poised for another masterful December performance. Pittsburgh came in 18-3 in December since 2013, the best mark in the NFL over that span.

The Chargers, however, responded thanks in part to a questionable non-call by the officials. Rivers hit a streaking Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard touchdown to get Los Angeles on the board, a play that began with Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi standing up and shuffling his feet backward an instant before the ball was snapped. It marked the second time this season Los Angeles benefited from a non-call on what appeared to be a pre-snap penalty. The Chargers scored a touchdown in Cleveland in October on a play in which left tackle Russell Okung moved before the ball was hiked to Rivers.

A beautiful 28-yard dart from Roethlisberger to Brown pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 23-7 at the break but Los Angeles ripped off the next 23 points thanks to a bit of luck some dynamic playmaking.

Allen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rivers late in the third quarter on a play in which Pittsburgh defensive backs Sean Davis and Joe Haden collided going for the ball, which popped up in the air and landed in squarely in Allen’s hands.

King then dashed 73 yards on a punt return, with Allen pulling in the 2-point conversion that tied the game at 23.

Los Angeles — which managed just two yards rushing in the first half with Austin Ekeler filling in for Gordon — then turned to Jackson. The rookie seventh-round pick used his quickness to squirt through Pittsburgh’s defensive line, and his 18-yard burst up the middle gave the Chargers a 30-23 lead.

INJURIES

Pittsburgh WR Justin Hunter, given a spot on the game-day roster over rookie James Washington, left in the first half and did not return after injuring himself while diving for a Roethlisberger pass in the end zone. … Steelers WR Ryan Switzer was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a vicious hit by Los Angeles linebacker Jatavis Brown in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Host Cincinnati next Sunday.

Steelers: Travel to Oakland to play the Raiders next Sunday. Pittsburgh hasn’t won in Oakland since 1995.

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