SAN DIEGO -- Five seconds left, down by three points and the ball inside the 1.
They got it for a stunning victory.
Bell took the direct snap, ran left and was slowed in traffic before diving for the end zone and getting the ball across the line as Donald Butler dragged him down.
"It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will," coach Mike 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."
Bell said it was the most meaningful touchdown of his three-year career. "The game-winner on the last play of the game, that's what you dream about," he said.
"I got to get it in," Bell said. "We still had a timeout left. I was thinking we still have a timeout left, so I'm thinking, 'OK, maybe if I get stopped, maybe run like 4 seconds off and get a timeout and we could kick a field goal. I wanted to end the game right there."
There was no way Tomlin was going to kick a field goal to force overtime.
"We have to run the football. We have Le'Veon Bell. We had an opportunity to win the game," Tomlin said. "We're on the road in a hostile environment, we've got to play to win and that's what we did."
It wasn't all that hostile, not with all the black-and-gold-clad fans in Qualcomm Stadium, which could be hosting its final year of the NFL because Chargers owner Dean Spanos wants to move to the Los Angeles area.
"First I'd like to thank Steeler Nation," Tomlin said. "How about the support that we had in the building tonight? We get that type of support just about all of the time we're on the road, but it doesn't get old. We appreciate it."
"It was a tough environment tonight. It was like being on the road," he said.
"Odd is one word we could use," Rivers said. "We were in silent count and we had no chance. We were checking in and out of plays and it was about as tough as it gets. I'm usually hoarse after road games and I'm going to be today as well."
Vick, having an awful game until the fourth quarter, kept the drive alive with a 24-yard scramble up the middle on third-and-6 from the 41 and then a 16-yard pass to Heath Miller to 1 a play before Bell's big run. An unnecessary roughness call against San Diego's Jahleel Addae moved the ball a half-yard closer to the end zone and stopped the clock.
"It's not how you start. It's how you finish," Vick said.
San Diego called a timeout before Pittsburgh ran the gutsy play.
Bell ran 21 times for 111 yards.
Antonio Gates returned from a four-game PED suspension and caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Philip Rivers in the first quarter and then had an 11-yard grab with 8:02 left to give the Chargers a 17-10 lead. Gates has 101 career TDs, joining Tony Gonzalez (111) as the only tight ends to reach that milestone.
Rivers has thrown 74 touchdown passes to Gates, the most from a QB to a tight end in NFL history.
Gates was suspended without pay for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug in the offseason.
It was Rivers' third pick-six of the season. He has turnovers in 10 of his last 11 games.
San Diego came right back and tied it on Lambo's 40-yard field goal.
Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press