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Winners and Losers from the Steelers' 41-37 loss to the Chargers

Updated: Nov 23, 2021


(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


Winners:


Ben Roethlisberger - With not practicing all week due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list and just being removed yesterday, Roethlisberger played his best game of the year. No. 7 completed 28 of 44 passes (63.6%) for 273 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions with a quarterback rating of 103.7. In his last five games, Roethlisberger has a 9-0 touchdown-interception ratio. With three key defensive starters out and the run game struggling, Roethlisberger stepped up and performed at an extremely high level.

Diontae Johnson - After a crucial fumble in overtime last week against the Lions, Johnson bounced back and led the Steelers in receptions and receiving yards with seven catches for 101 yards (14.1 average) and a touchdown. Check out the beautiful route and touchdown catch by Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson's route-running is truly special.

Cameron Heyward - The defense got gashed by the Chargers, but Heyward always brings his "A" game. Watch Heyward chase down Justin Herbert on this 36-yard run. That's just an incredible effort.

On the next possession, Heyward batted Herbert's pass at the line of scrimmage and Cam Sutton came up with an interception. Three plays later, Roethlisberger completed a screen pass to Pat Freiermuth for a 5-yard touchdown to tie the game at 34-34.

Miles Killebrew - With the Steelers trailing 27-13 early in the fourth quarter, Miles Killebrew broke through up the middle and blocked Ty Long's punt. It was Killebrew's second blocked punt of the season, as he had a block in Week 1 against the Bills also. The big play set the Steelers up at the 3-yard line and four plays later Najee Harris leaped into the end zone for a touchdown to cut the Chargers' lead to 27-20.

Losers:


Defensive Scheme/Mike Tomlin-Keith Butler - The Steelers were without T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden, so it was expected that the Steelers would struggle against the Chargers offense, who is led by one of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Herbert. But, wow, Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler had a horrendous defensive game plan. The Chargers racked up 533 total yards of offense, which is the second-most allowed during the Tomlin era. The most was against the Patriots in 2013. The most puzzling part of the night was that Herbert rushed for 90 yards on nine rushing attempts (10.0 average). Most of those runs were scrambles on third down also. None was bigger than Herbert's 36-yard scramble on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter, which set up Austin Eckeler's fourth touchdown of the game, two on the ground and two through the air. It was mind-boggling how the Steelers didn't have a quarterback spy on Herbert on those third-down situations. The defense made some big stops in the fourth quarter with an interception and a turnover on downs, but they ultimately fell apart at the end as Herbert threw a game-winning 53-yard touchdown to Mike Williams, which occurred because of a busted coverage with Cam Sutton and Tre Norwood. It's tough with not having Watt, but the defense got very little pressure on Herbert. At times, it look like Herbert was passing in a 7-on-7 scrimmage. Herbert finished the night completing 30 of 41 passes (73.2%) for 382 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and had a quarterback rating of 116.1.


Devin Bush - Bush had another rough game. He's just been bad all around. He's not making any impact plays and is struggling mightily against the run. Bush just can't shed blockers. Watch Bush not be able to get off a block here on Austin Ekeler's 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

On the next possession, Bush got beat in coverage by Ekeler for a 10-yard touchdown. It's just been a brutal season for Bush. A lot of people, including his dad, have been saying he's not his normal self with coming off an ACL injury. That's understandable. But, man, Bush has looked really bad.


Offensive line - The offensive line continues to be a work in progress. Kendrick Green gets pushed back way too often. He's just not good against bigger and stronger defensive linemen. The offensive line also gave up back-to-back sacks on their final possession, which pushed the Steelers back into a fourth-and-29 from their own 3-yard line. Both sacks were on left guard Joe Haeg, who was filling in for J.C. Hassenauer.


Run game - The Chargers came into tonight's game with the worst-ranked run defense, allowing 155.1 yards per game. The Steelers managed to rush for just 55 yards on 18 carries. The Steelers trailed for most of the game, so they didn't have to run the ball often, but when they did, the Chargers' defensive line was winning the battle in the trenches. The Chargers had several backups playing on the defensive line also. I expected the Steelers to have a lot more success running the ball, but the offensive line is just so up and down.


Matt Canada's red zone play-calling - For some reason, Canada has a hard time calling a run play with Najee Harris when the Steelers are inside the 5-yard line. When the Steelers got the ball on the 3-yard line after Killebrew's blocked punt, Canada called four plays and not one of them was a handoff to Harris. Luckily for the Steelers, there was a defensive pass interference penalty called on Tevaughn Campbell on fourth-and-goal and it gave the offense an automatic first down at the 1-yard line. On first-and-goal, Canada finally called a run play for Harris and the rookie running back leaped into the end zone for a touchdown to cut the Chargers lead to 27-20 with 11:35 remaining in the game. Canada also had some suspect play-calling during the first quarter in the red zone. On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Roethlisberger threw a fade pass to Chase Claypool that fell incomplete. That's a pretty low percent play. The Steelers decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal, and Roethlisberger completed a shovel pass to Freiermuth but the play was sniffed out by the Chargers and it was a turnover on downs. With the defense missing three key starters, it was the right decision by the Steelers to go for it, but Canada has to come up with something better than a shovel pass on fourth-and-goal. Also, if you know you're in four-down territory, why not just run it with Harris on third-and-goal? The Steelers ended up scoring 37 points, but Canada has to be better in these red-zone situations. It seems like he just overcomplicates things when the wise decision would be to hand the ball off to your featured running back when inside the 5-yard line.







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