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3 things we learned about the Steelers

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SAN DIEGO — When Le’Veon Bell is on your side, the decision is easy.

“We have to run the football,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We have Le’Veon Bell.”

Bell’s 1-yard scoring run with no time remaining lifted the Steelers past the San Diego Chargers 24-20 Monday night.

The Chargers grabbed the lead on rookie Josh Lambo’s 54-yard field goal with 2:56 to play. The Steelers then drove 80 yards in 12 plays for the win.

On first-and-goal at the San Diego 1-yard line with five seconds remaining, Bell took a direct snap and ran to the left side. The running back was wrapped up by linebacker Donald Butler, but Bell was able to stretch the ball over the goal line for the win.

“It was definitely the most meaningful for sure,” Bell said of where his touchdown ranks. “To win the game, the game-winner on the last play of the game, that’s what you dream about it.”

Quarterback Philip Rivers said it was a nightmare for the Chargers. Not only the result, but the surroundings as well. Chargers fans had a tough time matching the chants from the Steelers boosters.

“It was a tough environment tonight,” Rivers said of the thousands of Steelers fans. “It was like being on the road.”

Tomlin said he never hesitated in going for the win instead of kicking the tying field goal.

“It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will,” Tomlin said. “We had to do what was required to win. Le’Veon gave us an opportunity to win, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the football.”

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates returned from a four-game suspension and caught two touchdown passes. He finished with nine receptions for a game-high 92 yards.

What we learned about the Steelers

1. The Steelers can win without Ben Roethlisberger. Michael Vick, at age 35, got the start and the win Monday — although it took him time to get going. He turned back the clock by using his feet and not his arm to secure the victory. He was a very ordinary 13 of 26 for 203 yards and with a touchdown and interception, but his biggest contribution came on a 24-yard scramble that set up Le’Veon Bell’s 1-yard run for the win.

2. The Steelers pass rush wasn’t as good as it has been — and it almost cost them. Pittsburgh entered with 14 sacks, fourth best in the NFL, but it could only bring Philip Rivers down twice even though San Diego employed an offensive line littered with backups. True, few quarterbacks get rid of the ball as quickly as Rivers, but the Steelers didn’t pester him nearly enough, and he threw for two scores and 365 yards.

3. There’s no end to the respect Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has for Bell. With the game on the line, Tomlin could have kicked a field goal for the tie rather than calling a handoff for Bell to get the final yard as time was running out. Not only did he go to Bell, but he put him in the Wildcat formation, in which the back caught a direct snap and then pushed the ball across the goal line.

Etc.

–ILB Lawrence Timmons is the heart and soul of the Steelers’ defense, and he proved it again vs. the Chargers. Timmons had a team-high nine tackles and he added two tackles for losses and a pass defensed. Timmons, who has missed only two games in his career, started his 74th consecutive game. He is the Steelers’ leading tackler.

–WR Markus Wheaton is a talent, but it is easy for him to get overlooked with all of the Steelers’ weapons. However, he had the longest catch of the night, good for 72 yards and a score that kept his team’s hopes of rallying alive. Wheaton could see his playing time diminish with the return of WR Martavis Bryant, but he made a good showing for himself with his long catch.

–WR Martavis Bryant was eligible to play after serving a four-game suspension, but the Steelers elected not to activate him. Few receivers can stretch a field like Bryant. However, there were reports he was having issues with a knee.


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