Steelers Report Card: Game Four vs. San Diego Chargers
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Ben Roethlisberger flawlessly directed an offense that produced 498 yards, 32 first downs and the most points this season. And he did it by passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He opened the game with three completions for 65 yards to set up the first touchdown. He completed 26 of 33 passes with three drops and finished with a season-high passer rating of 128.9.
Rashard Mendenhall bounced back from his punishment a week ago to rush for a career-best 165 yards on 29 carries, including 80 in the first half when he also caught a 20-yard pass and scored two touchdowns. He ran hard and did a nice job in blitz pickup, twice knocking Chargers defenders out of the game. Mewelde Moore caught one touchdown and threw another, a 6-yarder to Heath Miller.
Tight end Heath Miller had six of his eight catches for 58 yards in the first half and had two 6-yard TD catches. Hines Ward had eight catches for a team-high 113 yards, his second 100-yard game this season, but he dropped back-to-back passes in the fourth. Mike Wallace continues to make big plays, catching a 35-yard pass to set up the first touchdown and a 12-yarder on the third touchdown.
Other than two sacks on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, the offensive line played very well. Roethlisberger had time to throw and the Steelers rushed for a season-high 178 yards. Guard Chris Kemoeatu was big on counter plays and they even converted several short-yardage situations, once when G Doug Legursky lined up at fullback and led Mendenhall through the hole on a 1-yard TD.
The Chargers rushed for 9 yards on four carries in the first half and had to give up on the run game after falling behind, 21-0. Not that it would have mattered. Their longest play in the first half was 16 yards on a swing pass to RB Darren Sproles. DE Aaron Smith had one of two sacks on QB Philip Rivers and DE Brett Keisel collapsed the pocket on several occasions, though he didn't get a sack.
For a quarterback who was sacked only three times, all in the second half, Philip Rivers was under a lot of pressure and did not have time to sit in the pocket. Most of the pressure came from inside, by James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons. James Harrison was double-teamed on occasions by the Chargers, but still managed to register two sacks, including a forced fumble on Rivers to end the game.
The Steelers did a good job taking away the big play for Rivers in the first half, but he passed for 189 of his 254 after halftime. CB Ike Taylor followed big-play receiver Vincent Jackson and held him to four catches, including one for 15 yards in the first half. But the problem seemed to be finding someone to cover TE Antonio Gates, who had nine catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
The task was to make sure there were no long returns by Darren Sproles, and the coverage team did just that. Sproles, the AFC's kick return leader, averaged just 21 yards on four returns, none longer than 28 yards. But Stefan Logan was stripped on a punt return by FB Jacob Hester, who returned the fumble 41 yards for a touchdown, and Ryan Mundy lost an onside kick that resulted in a TD.
Mike Tomlin showed confidence in his offense going on fourth-and-1 from his own 30 with a 14-0 lead. Give credit to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who mixed the run and pass to perfection in the first half when the Steelers controlled the ball for nearly 23 of the 30 minutes and had 19 first downs. The defense gave up 21 more points in the fourth, though some of that was on the special teams.
First Published October 5, 2009 12:42 am