The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to get their second win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers by a touchdown. But the team knows, and especially the defense, that it should have been more.
Pittsburgh held a 24-0 lead before the Chargers scored 17 unanswered points in the second half. Then they were able to get the ball back with 89 seconds to go in a one-possession game. What had the makings of a blowout from the early goings was suddenly a threat. And while they were able to extinguish that threat rather easily, the defense doesn’t want to put themselves in those positions anymore.
“I feel like we should’ve done a better job finishing”, rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush said after Sunday’s game when he was asked about how the team closed the game. It was framed as a compliment, but Bush wasn’t letting go of the touchdowns they gave up late in what could have been a blowout on the scoreboard.
“But you still learn”, he said. “Everything is not going to go your way (every time). Everything’s not going to be perfect. But we definitely finished today. Great win, solid win, but I think there’s some things we need to clean up at the end of the game, just to make sure there’s no doubt”.
Bush helped set up a big early lead that had the Steelers thinking dominance. On an early backwards pass, he scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown himself to end the Chargers’ second drive. On their next possession, he intercepted Philip Rivers off a pass batted at the line of scrimmage by Tyson Alualu.
The offense would add another touchdown and then a field goal before the Chargers started putting up points in the fourth quarter, 17 of them to be specific, although that includes a touchdown just a minute into the quarter on a drive that began in the third.
Finishing games has been an issue for the defense for the past season and a half. In 2018, they lost four games and played to a tie in another when they had or shared the lead entering the fourth quarter. The year before, they won those close games.
One thing they have more of this year is the ability to create splash plays, and getting one of those can really slam the door, as Cameron Sutton’s game-ending interception did for Rivers and company. That may have to be the equalizer for this unit until they can find some way to provide down-to-down stability.