Redskins

Steelers regrouping after 34-24 loss to Chargers

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Steelers regrouping after 34-24 loss to Chargers

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten pretty good at beating the NFL's best.

They've nearly perfected losing to the worst.

And while San Diego is more underachieving than utterly horrific, the Chargers' 34-24 win over the Steelers on Sunday continued a perplexing trend for a team that considers itself among the elite.

Pittsburgh (7-6) has won on the road at Baltimore and the New York Giants this season. It has also fallen to lesser-lights Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland and now the Chargers (5-8). It makes for one of the weirder resumes of any playoff contender.

``There's nothing we can really say,'' Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. ``We know we went out and messed up a lot of games. We know we're going to pay for it here.''

The Steelers certainly paid for it on Sunday.

Pittsburgh hoped the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from a three-week layoff due to a sprained right shoulder would provide the final piece to a puzzle that's only come together in fits and spurts this fall.

While Roethlisberger's arm looked fine while throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns, he got little help from his teammates and was hardly perfect himself, throwing for an interception and having a botched screen pass turn into an easy San Diego score that put the Chargers up 24 midway through the third quarter.

``We felt like we missed a lot of plays out there,'' Roethlisberger said. ``I missed a lot of throws. I threw it to them once. We all have to play better.''

Amazingly, the Steelers are still in prime position to secure one of the AFC's six postseason spots after Cincinnati lost to Dallas. If Pittsburgh can win its final three games - starting with a road game against the Cowboys next Sunday - it's in no matter what happens elsewhere.

``I feel great about this team,'' nose tackle Casey Hampton said. ``We didn't play our best today and they got us but going forward I feel like we're going to win every game. That's what we've got to do to get in the playoffs.''

There are no such visions in San Diego, which came in having lost seven of its last eight. Yet the Chargers were able to make history by winning in Pittsburgh in the regular season for the first time, snapping a 14-game losing streak.

They did it by playing with the fearlessness and tenacity of a team with postseason dreams. Those are long gone, and head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith may soon be on their way out, too.

Not that it mattered on a day the Chargers looked like the team playing with something on the line.

Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Danario Alexander, and San Diego cruised.

``This isn't necessarily the team we thought we'd have on the field in December, but this is the type of performance we thought we'd put together,'' said Rivers, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 200 yards.

The injury-ravaged offensive line kept Rivers out of harm's way. The Steelers only sacked Rivers once, and all that extra time in the pocket helped him convert 12 of 22 third downs, allowing San Diego to chew up the clock and keep Roethlisberger from getting going while the game was still competitive.

``We all know that this team has played this way through large parts of many games,'' Turner said. ``We did not make the big mistake in the football game.''

Instead, it was the Steelers who couldn't seem to get out of their own way.

The Steelers didn't even cross midfield until a last-gasp drive to end the half ended with Shaun Suisham's 49-yard field goal that pulled them to 13-3.

Any boost the kick provided disappeared during the first 10 minutes of the third quarter.

San Diego converted five straight third downs during a clock-chewing drive, including a 17-yard burst up the middle by Ronnie Brown on third-and-13 from the Pittsburgh 29.

The play wasn't designed to get a first down, but a pair of missed tackles helped the Chargers extend the drive. Three plays later Rivers found Michael Floyd for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 20-3.

The 17-play march ate up nearly 10 minutes. The Chargers then needed barely 10 seconds to put the game away.

Backed up yet again after Floyd's score, Roethlisberger tried to hit Brown on a screen pass. The ball smacked into tight end David Paulson's rear and rolled into the end zone, where Quentin Jammer fell on it.

The play appeared to be overturned on review. Pittsburgh's offense ran back onto the field when referee Scott Green popped out from under the hood.

Instead, Green pulled a switcheroo, confirming the score to give the Chargers a 27-3 lead and a brief moment of joy in a year full of chaos.

``Yeah we've been struggling the last five weeks,'' tight end Antonio Gates said. ``But at the end of the day it only came down to one or two plays in those games we lost. Today, we just were playing the way we were capable of playing, the way we know how to play.''

NOTES: Steelers LG Willie Colon left the game with a left knee injury. Pouncey moved from center to guard, with Doug Legursky replacing Pouncey at center. ... Roethlisberger became the 25th quarterback in NFL history to surpass 29,000 passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards. ... San Diego WR Michael Spurlock had seven receptions for 64 yards, with five of the receptions turning third downs into first downs. ... Steelers WR Plaxico Burress had an 18-yard reception in the first half, his first reception since being re-signed by the Steelers two weeks ago. ... San Diego held the ball for 36:45, the most by a Pittsburgh opponent this season.

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Need to Know: Redskins stock watch—Three up, three down

Need to Know: Redskins stock watch—Three up, three down

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 22, 34 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins stock watch: Three up, three down

For some Redskins players, the outlook looks much brighter now than it did when last season ended. Others have seen their stocks decline. Here is a look at three players in each category.

Stock up

CB Quinton Dunbar—His rise started the day after the season ended when he signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. It continued when the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland opened up more opportunity at his position. Then the only additions at corner were veteran Orlando Scandrick and seventh-round pick Greg Stroman. Dunbar has a clear path to a starting job, perhaps for the next few years. 

G Shawn Lauvao—At the end of the season, he was coming off of injured reserve. It was the second time in his four seasons in Washington that he finished the season on the sideline. He turned 30 last year and as the prime weeks of free agency passed he didn’t get much attention. His fortunes started to turn when the team didn’t sign or draft a guard. Then on May 4 when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with Washington. Shortly after that Arie Kouandjio, his primary competition at left guard, was lost for the season with a quad injury. While there is no guarantee that the Redskins won’t look at other options at left guard, for right now it’s Lauvao’s job to lose. 

S Montae Nicholson—It was hard to make much out of his rookie 2017 season as he spent half of it on the sideline with injuries. But early in the offseason, Jay Gruden said that Nicholson was as important to the defense as Jordan Reed is to the offense. Given that Reed has made one Pro Bowl on his resume and could get more if he stays healthy and that his presence on the field tends to lift his teammates, that’s high praise. It means that Nicholson is at the top of the depth chart in Sharpie. He still needs to stay healthy but he is not a player who is at risk of losing his job due to an injury. 

Stock down

RB Rob Kelley—This one of pretty obvious. He finished the year on injured reserve and a couple of the running backs signed as injury replacements, Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall, looked pretty good. Then came the draft and Derrius Guice as the second-round pick. Right now, he looks like the No. 4 back and he will have to fight hard to keep a roster spot. 

DL Ziggy Hood—Most expected the Redskins to draft a nose tackle early and that’s what happened when they took Daron Payne in the first round. That didn’t hurt Hood’s stock much. But they followed up by taking Tim Settle later in the draft and that made the depth chart very crowded. Hood is the seventh D-lineman and they usually only keep six. Even if he makes it he could spend a lot of time on the game-day inactive list. 

S Deshazor Everett—Nobody expected the Redskins to draft a safety, but they found the speed and athleticism of Troy Apke too attractive to turn down in the fourth round of the draft. The rookie needs some work on his game, so it appears that Everett, who started eight games last year, will be the first safety off of the bench early in the season. But it’s likely that they will want to get Apke in games as soon as he’s ready and that could leave Everett on the bench. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey was born on this date in 1978. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 34
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 48
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 71

The Redskins last played a game 173 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 79 days. 

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!