But a first-half safety by James Harrison and three Jeff Reed field goals – the last one coming from 32-yards out with 11 seconds remaining in the game – lifted the Steelers to an 11-10 victory at Heinz Field over the San Diego Chargers. It was the first 11-10 game in NFL history.
After throwing eight interceptions and one touchdown pass in his previous three games, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 308 yards with no interceptions Sunday as Pittsburgh improved to 7-3, one game ahead of Baltimore, a 30-10 loser against the New York Giants, in the AFC North standings.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a game-winning field goal drive from their own 13 on their final possession, going six-for-six for 62 yards to set up Reed's game-winning field goal. Four of his completions on the drive went to Hines Ward, who had 11 catches for 124 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game.
The Steelers, who had 410 yards of total offense, had two touchdowns called back on penalties - one on Pittsburgh, one on the Chargers in the closing moments of the game.
Willie Parker, who rushed for 115 yards on 25 carries playing in just his second game since September, had a four-yard TD run with 21 seconds remaining and the Steelers trailing 10-8 negated by a holding penalty on tight end Sean McHugh. It was one of 13 Pittsburgh penalties in the game. San Diego was penalized twice.
The penalty moved the ball back to the San Diego 14 and Tomlin sent Reed onto the field goal for a field goal with 15 seconds remaining.
San Diego (4-6) got the ball back on the kickoff with five seconds remaining and Phillip Rivers threw a short pass to LaDainian Tomlinson, who pitched the ball to wide receiver Chris Chambers. Chambers then attempted to throw the ball back across the field and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu jumped in front of the intended receiver, batting the ball into the air and to the ground. He then scooped it up for an apparent touchdown as time expired.
But after a lengthy review, the officiating crew ruled that the first lateral was an illegal forward pass, a ruling referee Scott Green said following the game was the wrong decision.
"We should have let the play go through to the end," Green said. "It was misinterpreted, instead of killing the play we should have let the play go through."
The Steelers were just glad to come away with the win, no matter what the score, particularly after being stopped on a fourth-and-goal run in the first quarter.
Mewelde Moore was stopped for the second week in a row on fourth down late in the first quarter with San Diego holding a 7-0 lead on a three-yard TD run by Tomlinson.
Three plays after that, James Harrison sacked Rivers, stripping him of the ball. Offensive lineman Marcus McNeil scooped up the loose football but was also tackled by Harrison for a safety that trimmed San Diego's lead to 7-2.
The Chargers drove deep into Pittsburgh territory late in the first half, but Harrison again victimized Rivers, this time picking him off at the Steelers' 10 and returning it 33 yards to the 43. That set up a 21-yard field goal by Reed as time expired to trim the lead to 7-5 at the half.
The Steelers opened the second half with a long drive, but were again forced to settle for a Reed field goal, this one from 41 yards out, to take an 8-7 lead.
San Diego, which had just 213 yards of total offense, managed a long drive of its own at the start of the fourth quarter, taking the ball from its own 18 to the Pittsburgh 4. But Rivers threw two incompletions and San Diego took a 10-8 lead on a 22-yard Nate Kaeding field goal.