The Steelers won yesterday but those fans who bet on them not only lost, they were cheated out of their money.
Referee Scott Green admitted after the game that his crew not only blew a call that cost Troy Polamalu a touchdown on the final play, but they confirmed it by using instant replay.
The Steelers believe that was not the only miscarriage of justice by the officiating crew.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, in his opening postgame remarks, told reporters he would take questions "provided none of them are about the officials."
"I have never seen a game with 13-1 penalties," Tomlin said.
Actually, it was 13 for 115 yards against the Steelers and two for 5 yards against San Diego. At one point, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney left his box after a Willie Parker touchdown run was nullified by a holding penalty, and spoke with the league observer in the pressbox.
Green and his crew at the least will have plenty to answer to their bosses today about the last call. If you were a betting man, the 5-point spread would have been topped had Polamalu scored. Instead, you lose.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed a short pass over the middle to LaDainian Tomlinson of 3 yards. He lateraled the ball to Chris Cambers, who fumbled while trying to loft it back to tackle Marcus McNeil. But Polamalu burst through to disrupt it, scooped up the fumble and ran 12 yards for a touchdown.
After discussions and a replay review, the officials ruled there was an illegal forward pass and it had hit the turf and therefore the play was dead. A confused Green admitted afterward to a pool reporter that they were wrong.
"We should have let the play go through in the end, yes,'' Green said.
Kicker Jeff Reed knows all about the trick winds at Heinz Field, but it's the slick turf that always seems most difficult to overcome.
Reed, whose 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left lifted the Steelers to an unusual 11-10 victory yesterday against the Chargers, changed his approach on field goals after missing a 51-yard attempt in the first quarter.
"I'm normally a very aggressive kicker," Reed said. "But instead of taking a 2-yard approach to the ball I cut it to one-and-a-half. You're going to get different winds at this field and really, at any field. But the turf here is slick so I made adjustments."
Reed was the only offense for the Steelers yesterday, kicking three field goals. His first, from 21 yards as the first half ended, closed the Chargers lead to 7-5. He then kicked a 41-yarder in the third quarter to give the Steelers an 8-7 advantage.
Parker returned to the lineup with a bang, rushing 25 times for 115 yards in just his fifth game after missing five of the past six with a knee injury and then a shoulder injury. It was his third 100-yard game of the season and 24th of his career.
Parker wore a shoulder harness to protect a torn labrum that occurred Nov. 3 in Washington.
"It felt really well, just getting out there and feeling normal, more like myself instead of struggling,'' he said.
While the Steelers' defense did allow San Diego to take a 10-8 lead in the fourth quarter after a 78-yard drive, it did not let the Chargers into the end zone after a first down at the 6.
Cornerback Ike Taylor knocked down a second-down pass from the 4 that was intended for wide receiver Vincent Jackson, whom Taylor shadowed the whole game. And, on third down, newly signed Fernando Bryant helped break up a pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates in the far corner.
With Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden injured, the Steelers started William Gay opposite Taylor at cornerback and went with Anthony Madison and Bryant at different times as the nickel back.
"You get a guy like Fernando Bryant who jumps right in, plays great ball,'' safety Ryan Clark said. "You know, we've got the guy with the hair back there, we've got Troy back there; he's making plays. Willie Gay played an awesome game. ... We weren't nervous, we weren't scared."
Receiver Hines Ward put together his second consecutive 100-yard game for only the second time in his career. He had three in a row in 2002. His 124 yards on 11 receptions marked the 18th 100-yard game of his career. He has 20 catches for 240 yards the past two games. ... The Steelers are 13-0 at home against the Chargers in the regular season, 0-2 in the playoffs. ... Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led his 15th career come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter or overtime in the regular season. He also did it against Baltimore and Jacksonville this season. ... Rivers came into the game with a passer rating of 106.4. It was 43.6 yesterday. Rivers had better than a two-to-one ratio of touchdowns to interceptions -- 21 to 8. Against the Steelers he threw two interceptions and had no touchdowns. ... Tomlinson was averaging 3.8 yards a carry, which is low for him. The Steelers lowered that even more, holding him to 3.2 yards a carry -- 57 yards on 18 attempts. ... The Chargers were averaging 349 yards and three touchdowns a game. The Steelers held then to 213 yards and one touchdown.
Steelers: QB Dennis Dixon, CB Bryant McFadden, CB Deshea Townsend, LB Bruce Davis, OT Tony Hills, OT Marvel Smith, TE Heath Miller, DE Orpheus Roye.
Chargers: QB Charlie Whitehurst, CB Cletis Gordon, SS Steve Gregory, RB Michael Bennett, G Kynan Forney, WR Buster Davis, TE Kris Wilson, DT Ian Scott.
Jerry Micco and Bob Smizik contributed to this report.