for this game

Steelers roll over Chargers, gain AFC title game

Jan 12, 2009 - 3:08 AM By Brad Everett PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- With five Super Bowl rings in their back pockets, the Pittsburgh Steelers know as much as anybody that the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.

It took just one game for the Chargers to learn that the hard way.

After seeing the Chargers jolt through their vaunted defense for a touchdown just two minutes into the game, the Steelers dominated the rest of the way en route to a 35-24 victory in an AFC divisional playoffs on Sunday.

The Steelers (13-4) advance to next Sunday's AFC Championship and will host AFC North rival Baltimore (13-5), a 13-10 winner against Tennessee on Saturday. Pittsburgh defeated the Ravens in two earlier meetings this season.

Willie Parker ran for 146 yards on 27 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns for the Steelers, who will be looking to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons.

"That is an excited football team in there," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It feels great to move from the field of eight to the field of four, especially in the fashion that we desire to do it. I think that we played our kind of football today."

Having not scored an offensive touchdown in six quarters against San Diego this season - they defeated the Chargers in the NFL's first ever 11-10 game in November - the Steelers rebounded from a less-than-spectacular, first-half offensive performance to bust the game open in a dominating second half.

The third quarter, in particular, set the stage for what would morph a 14-10 halftime lead into a convincing victory.

The Steelers used 10 plays and burned 7:56 off the clock on the opening drive of the second half, a 77-yard march that resulted in Ben Roethlisberger's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller for a 21-10 advantage.

That came after the Steelers had scored a touchdown just before the halftime to jump ahead for good, 14-10.

"We talked (at halftime) about any time you score to end the first half, and you get the ball to start the second half, that's a crucial drive because you can score back-to-back without them having a chance to answer. That's what we did today," Miller said.

Overall in the third quarter, the Steelers outgained the Chargers, 136-0, and, with the help of a Philip Rivers interception, held a 14:43-0:17 edge in time of possession.

"We wanted to come out of the locker room and establish a tone for the half," Tomlin said.

From there on out, the Steelers rolled, getting fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Gary Russell and Parker.

The Chargers scored twice in the final frame - on touchdown passes by Rivers of 4 yards to Legedu Naanee and a 62-yard strike to Darren Sproles that finished the scoring with 1:53 left - but a final onside kick failed and San Diego could get no closer.

"It was a heck of a team that we were playing, but we just fell short," Rivers said. "Somebody had to lose and we certainly didn't think it was going to be us or hoped it was going to be us, but it turned out that way."

The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Chargers (9-9) who used a frantic finish to capture the AFC West Division title in the final week of the regular season.

"It's a growing and learning experience," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "We have a lot of young players who got a chance for a lot of reasons to play this year and I believe they have grown. The things that they did in December will help them continue to grow as players and help us grow as a team."

Rivers finished 21-of-35 for 308 yards and three touchdowns, but got little help from the running game. Sproles got the start in place of the injured LaDanian Tomlinson, but mustered just 15 yards on 11 carries - far short of his 105-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 23-17 win against Indianapolis last week.

"We definitely didn't want to let him get going," said Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who registered two of the Steelers four sacks. "I think, early in the game, we did what we were supposed to as a team by staying in our rush lanes and not allowing him to see the hole and hit it. I think he might have gotten us once of twice, but, after that, we contained him pretty good."

Things looked good for the Chargers early, as they made an early statement when they jumped on the Steelers just after the opening whistle. Rivers split their defense by finding Vincent Jackson in the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown hookup just 2:01 into the game.

But the Steelers rebounded quickly, getting a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown from Santonio Holmes to knot the score at 7-7.

Holmes made a few Chargers miss on a run that concluded by him hurdling Naanee just before reaching the end zone. It was the longest punt return for a touchdown in Steelers' postseason history.

"The field was kind of sloppy, so I knew their guys weren't going to be able to stop and cut and break down, you know, make the tackle like they were supposed to," Holmes said. "It just opened up for me."

After a Nate Kaeding field goal put the Chargers ahead, 10-7, with 1:56 left in the second quarter, the Steelers took the lead for good when Parker scored his first touchdown - from 3 yards out - 30 seconds before the half.

The late second-quarter spurt served as a precursor of things to come, and now has the Steelers geared up for what promises to be quite a fight against the rival Ravens next week.

"It's going to be a battle," Roethlisberger said. "It's so difficult to play a team three times in one season. I think it's going to be one for the ages."






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    Chargers 24, Steelers 35  FinalJan 19 1:35 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    SAN DIEGO 7 3 0 14 24
    PITTSBURGH 7 7 7 14 35 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: SDG - TD, VINCENT JACKSON 41 YD PASS FROM
    PHILIP RIVERS (NATE KAEDING KICK),
    2:01. Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards in
    2:01. Key plays: Rivers 21-yard
    pass

    Jan 11 7:59 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD SDG
    DARREN SPROLES 62 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 24
    PITTSBURGH 35 1:53 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 24, Steelers 35  4th - 1:53Jan 11 7:52 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD PIT
    WILLIE PARKER 16 YD RUN
    (JEFF REED KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 17
    PITTSBURGH 35 4:11 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 17, Steelers 35  4th - 4:11Jan 11 7:36 PM
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    Chargers 17, Steelers 28  4th - 9:09Jan 11 7:24 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD SDG
    LEGEDU NAANEE 4 YD PASS FROM PHILIP RIVERS
    (NATE KAEDING KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 17
    PITTSBURGH 28 9:09 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 17, Steelers 28  4th - 9:09Jan 11 7:24 PM
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  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD PIT
    GARY RUSSELL 1 YD RUN
    (JEFF REED KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 10
    PITTSBURGH 28 12:52 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Chargers 10, Steelers 28  4th - 12:52Jan 11 7:12 PM
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    Chargers 10, Steelers 21  4th - 13:41Jan 11 7:08 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL PLAYOFFS
    SAN DIEGO 10
    PITTSBURGH 21 0:00 LEFT, 3RD QTR
    PIT BALL ON SDG 1 YD LINE
    1ST AND 10

    Jan 11 6:58 PM
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    Chargers 10, Steelers 21  3rd - 6:47Jan 11 6:46 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL PLAYOFFS
    SAN DIEGO 10
    PITTSBURGH 21 6:47 LEFT, 3RD QTR
    PIT BALL ON PIT 21 YD LINE
    1ST AND 10

    Chargers 10, Steelers 21  3rd - 6:47Jan 11 6:42 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    SAN DIEGO 7 3 10
    PITTSBURGH 7 7 14 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: SDG - TD, VINCENT JACKSON 41 YD PASS FROM
    PHILIP RIVERS (NATE KAEDING KICK),
    2:01. Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards in
    2:01. Key plays: Rivers 21-yard
    pa

    Jan 11 6:11 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD PIT
    WILLIE PARKER 3 YD RUN
    (JEFF REED KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 10
    PITTSBURGH 14 0:40 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 10, Steelers 14  2nd - 0:40Jan 11 6:08 PM
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  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    FG SDG
    NATE KAEDING 42 YD
    SAN DIEGO 10
    PITTSBURGH 7 1:56 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Chargers 10, Steelers 7  2nd - 1:56Jan 11 5:57 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    SAN DIEGO 7 7
    PITTSBURGH 7 7 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: SDG - TD, VINCENT JACKSON 41 YD PASS FROM
    PHILIP RIVERS (NATE KAEDING KICK),
    2:01. Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards in
    2:01. Key plays: Rivers 21-yard

    Jan 11 5:23 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    TD PIT
    SANTONIO HOLMES 67 YD PUNT RETURN
    (JEFF REED KICK)
    SAN DIEGO 7
    PITTSBURGH 7 7:41 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Chargers 7, Steelers 7  1st - 7:41Jan 11 5:04 PM


  • DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
    NFL PLAYOFFS
    SAN DIEGO 7
    PITTSBURGH 0 12:48 LEFT, 1ST QTR
    PIT BALL ON PIT 42 YD LINE
    1ST AND 10

    Chargers 7, Steelers 0  1st - 12:48Jan 11 4:53 PM
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