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Chargers-Steelers: Five things to watch

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Oct 4, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    By Jay Posner
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    11:36 p.m. October 3, 2009

    CHARGERS (2-1) AT STEELERS (1-2)
    Kickoff: 5:20 p.m. / Caliente line: Steelers by 6-½ / Series: Steelers lead 21-8
    TV: Channel 7/39 (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth) / Radio: 105.3 FM; 1360-AM; in Spanish on 107.3-FM

    1. RIVERS VS. BIG BEN: The Chargers had their choice of quarterbacks in the 2004 draft and went with Philip Rivers, who has been excellent. But Ben Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowl rings, plus he's 2-1 against Rivers and 3-1 against the Chargers (with a rating of at least 96.4 in all three victories). With both teams struggling to find a running game, tonight's game could come down to which quarterback plays better. Rivers was terrible in the regular-season game last year at Pittsburgh, better in the playoffs, although in each game he threw a killer interception. He also suffered six sacks in the two games.

    2. ATTACK THE MIDDLE: With All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu sidelined again, the Chargers could look to exploit his absence in the middle of the field, either with their wide receivers running crossing routes or with tight end Antonio Gates just doing what he always does. The Steelers are 0-2 without Polamalu, who made a spectacular interception early in last year's regular-season meeting with the Chargers.

    3. ON THE GROUND: It appears LaDainian Tomlinson (sprained ankle) will play tonight and Willie Parker (turf toe) will not. That should give the Chargers an edge, although after gaining 91 yards against Pittsburgh way back in 2003, LT has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and 51.7 yards per game vs. the Steelers. Still, you would think he'd do better than 15 yards on 11 carries, which is what Darren Sproles managed in the playoff game last year. The Steelers are averaging just 81 yards a game rushing this year, but they did pound the Chargers for 289 in two games last year, with Parker getting 261. His backup is Rashard Mendenhall, who was benched for last week's game. Then again, everyone has been able to run early on San Diego this year.

    4. BIG-PLAY GUYS: If the quarterbacks don't decide this game, maybe two guys under 6-feet will – Sproles and Santonio Holmes. Sproles was ineffective rushing the ball against Pittsburgh in January, but he did catch five passes for 91 yards (including a 62-yard TD) and average 32.8 yards on five kickoff returns (including a 63-yarder). Holmes was even better, scoring on a 67-yard punt return after the Chargers had taken an early lead. He hasn't been returning punts this season, but he can be just as dangerous on offense, which you might have seen in the final minute of the Super Bowl. The Steelers also have Hines Ward, who has 25 catches for 326 yards in his past four games vs. San Diego.

    5. RED (ZONE) DOESN'T MEAN STOP: The Chargers have been pathetic in the red zone the past two weeks, scoring just one touchdown in 11 opportunities. Whether the return of Tomlinson is the ticket, or different play calls, or wearing different socks something has to change. The good news for the Chargers is Pittsburgh hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard either. Last week the Steelers had three goal-to-go situations and scored one TD. Whichever team gets the red-zone problem worked out becomes the favorite to win.

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