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(Sunday, October 4th)
Final Score: Pittsburgh 38, San Diego 28
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Rashard Mendenhall ran for 165 yards and a pair of scores and the Steelers beat San Diego, 38-28, despite nearly blowing a four-touchdown lead.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 26-of-33 passes for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Steelers (2-2), who lost their previous two games - on the road against Chicago and Cincinnati.
With Willie Parker sidelined because of a toe injury, Mendenhall received 29 of the 36 carries on the night for the Steelers, who controlled the line of scrimmage. Prior to Sunday night's game, Mendenhall had a total of 103 rushing yards over seven previous games in his NFL career. He missed the majority of last season because of a fractured shoulder.
"I've never had doubt in myself. I've always been confident and calm and just waiting on a chance, an opportunity," said Mendenhall. "For me to get knocked out and have to regroup and come back next season, this is all I've been working towards."
Running back Mewelde Moore got into the action, passing for a touchdown and catching another score. Heath Miller had eight receptions for 70 yards and two scores, while Hines Ward totaled eight catches for 113 yards for the defending Super Bowl champions.
It was the same old story for the Chargers in Pittsburgh. San Diego has lost six straight in the Steel City and is 2-15 all-time (including playoffs) in Western Pennsylvania. That streak includes a 35-24 loss for the Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs last year. San Diego's last victory in Pittsburgh was in January 1995 in the AFC Championship game.
Philip Rivers connected on 21-of-36 passes for 254 yards and three scores, while Antonio Gates caught nine balls for 124 yards and two TDs, but the Chargers failed in their bid for a monstrous comeback after falling behind 28-0 in the third quarter.
Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who missed the previous two games due to a right ankle injury, returned but was limited to 15 yards on seven carries.
Jacob Hester had a 41-yard fumble return for a touchdown for the Chargers (2-2), who have a bye in Week 5 before hosting AFC West-leading Denver, which is unbeaten.
"This has been a tough month on our football team, but a very difficult, physical month on our defensive front," said Chargers coach Norv Turner. "We've got the bye, we've got the chance to get rested. I think we can play a lot better than we played tonight."
The Chargers didn't gain the Pittsburgh side of the field until the third and Rivers finished off a drive with a three-yard TD pass to Gates over the middle with 1:33 to go in the quarter.
San Diego got a break to get within 28-14 with 12:37 left in the game. Stefan Logan fielded a punt and was being tackled by a host of players when Hester stripped him of the ball and ran uncontested to the end zone. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged the play, but replays showed Logan was never down as his knee rested on the leg of San Diego's Kassim Osgood before the ball was stripped away.
Pittsburgh then converted a pair of third downs before Moore received a handoff from Roethlisberger and threw to the back of the end zone to Miller for the six-yard score with 7:18 remaining.
Gates caught a 30-yard TD pass just 90 seconds later, and San Diego's Tim Dobbins jumped on the ball to recover the ensuing onside kick.
The Steelers continued to falter when James Harrison dropped back in coverage on Gates and was called for pass interference. On the next play, Rivers found Chris Chambers crossing over the middle. Chambers veered to his right before diving for the pylon, getting the Chargers within 35-28 with 4:31 left.
"One positive you can pull from this is the resiliency our guys showed. We kept fighting. There was no quit," said Rivers. "Late in the game, that other side, they weren't comfortable over there."
Instead of another onside attempt, the Chargers kicked deep and Roethlisberger immediately threw to Santonio Holmes for a 15-yard gain. Mendenhall then ran four straight times, totaling 36 yards. Faced with a 3rd-and-inches, Roethlisberger pushed the pile ahead for a first down, but the clock stopped when Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu hurt his left leg.
Kemoeatu was back on the field moments later and called for holding, forcing a 3rd-and-19 with 1:37 left and San Diego out of timeouts. Roethlisberger hit Moore with a seven-yard gain and Jeff Reed, who missed a pair of fourth- quarter field goals against the Bears two weeks ago, made a 46-yard try with 43 seconds remaining.
Harrison then sacked Rivers and forced a fumble. The recovery by the Steelers capped off the wild night at Heinz Field.
"A few freakish things happened. That's life in the National Football League," said Tomlin. "What it created was a great opportunity for Jeff to make a significant kick for us."
It was rough-going right away for San Diego's defense as Roethlisberger drove the hosts 79 yards in just six plays on the first possession. The game's first three plays -- all completed passes -- totaled 65 yards, moving the ball to the San Diego 14. Mendenhall ran the next three plays, finishing the march with a one-yard plunge up the middle for the touchdown.
The Chargers actually lost a yard on their initial drive, and the Steelers took over at their own 25 following a punt, then drove right to the end zone. Roethlisberger capped the drive with a 19-yard TD pass to Moore, who broke a couple of tackles on the way to the end zone with 4:08 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Steelers padded their lead to 21-0 on Mendenhall's two-yard TD run with 1:28 left in the half. Earlier during the drive, it looked as if the Chargers had their first break of the game when Antonio Cromartie picked off a pass and ran back for a touchdown, but he was called for holding the jersey of Holmes.
Roethlisberger's six-yard scoring toss to tight end Miller in the left corner of the end zone made it 28-0 midway through the third quarter.
The Steelers play at Detroit next Sunday...Tomlinson had a streak of 86 straight games with at least 10-plus carries broken...Pittsburgh had 497 yards of offense to 251 for the Chargers. That included a big 177-16 advantage in the rushing department.
10/05 01:36:10 ET
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