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First Look: Chargers-Steelers

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson


    No. 4 seed San Diego Chargers (9-8) at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4), Sunday, 4:45 p.m. ET

    How: This game was set up when San Diego beat visiting Indianapolis, 23-17 in overtime in one wild-card playoff game Saturday night and when Baltimore beat Miami Sunday in another.

    The good news for San Diego: The Chargers chances of hosting the AFC championship game are still alive. If the Chargers beat Pittsburgh and No. 6 seed Baltimore wins at No. 1 seed Tennessee on Saturday, the Chargers will host the Ravens for the right to go to the Super Bowl on Jan. 18. Had Miami won Sunday, the Chargers would have no chance of playing at home again.

    Also, playing Pittsburgh gives injured San Diego stars LaDainian Tomlinson (groin) and tight end Antonio Gates (high ankle sprain) an extra day of rest in their attempt to be ready. Gates played the entire game against the Colts and was effective so he should only get better, but Tomlinson sat out the second half and his playing status is very much up in the air.

    The bad news for San Diego: Many league observers thought the Chargers might be better off playing at Tennessee. Many believe the Titans are a better matchup for San Diego than Pittsburgh.

    The last time they met: Pittsburgh beat San Diego, 11-10, in Pittsburgh on Nov. 16. Pittsburgh won with a field goal in the final seconds.

    The hottest team in football: San Diego. The Chargers' five-game winning streak is the longest in the league. The Colts had a nine-game winning streak before being derailed by San Diego.

    Who would have thought: The AFC West still has a team remaining in the AFC tournament and the AFC East would be done for the season? The Chargers won the AFC West at 8-8. The AFC East had two 11-5 teams.

    Five things to watch

    The quarterbacks: San Diego's Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were both drafted in the first round in 2004. Rivers was the No. 4 pick and Roethlisberger was the 11th choice. Both are stars and the leaders of their team. They will be keys.

    Can the Chargers run? With or without Tomlinson, the Chargers may have trouble running the ball. The Steelers had the No. 2-ranked run defense in the NFL this season. San Diego had just 66 yards rushing against Pittsburgh in November. Darren Sproles is a fabulous role player but he may have trouble if he has to run the ball 20-plus times against the Steelers.

    Ron Rivera's defense: The Chargers' defense kept control of Pittsburgh in November and it was just Rivera's second game as defensive coordinator in San Diego. His unit has gotten increasingly more aggressive as the season has worn on.

    Can Jackson get in the game? San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson has been a big-game receiver. But he was shut out again the Colts. With their injuries and issues on offense, the Chargers need Jackson to have an impact in this game.

    The weather: The game between these two teams in November was played in snow and it played a role in the play on the field. It could be an issue again. The early forecast is for a chance of snow.

    Here are three things to monitor this week for the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) as they prepare for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers (9-8):

    1. What is the status of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?

    Roethlisberger did not practice last week after suffering a concussion in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 28. All indications are that he will be ready to return Sunday against the Chargers, but it would be interesting to see at what point he returns to the field. Keep in mind, Roethlisberger struggled midseason after missing significant practice time with a shoulder injury, and that surely is on the mind of the coaching staff as the team prepares for a one-and-done scenario against the Chargers.

    2. Who gets the nod in a rematch?

    This is an age-old question that will surely be asked at least a dozen times this week. Pittsburgh won the first meeting in Heinz Field, 11-10. So does that provide more motivation for San Diego to avenge the loss or does Pittsburgh have the Chargers' number? It's usually different for each team and each game. But San Diego enters this game as arguably the hottest team in the NFL, winning five straight to get to the divisional round.

    3. Chargers O vs. Steelers D

    This matchup will likely determine the outcome of the game. The Chargers finished the year second in scoring and have notched 30 points or more seven times this season. Pittsburgh has the NFL's top-rated defense and has held opponents to 10 points or less eight times. Something has to give when these two teams clash for the second time this season.
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  2. Aggieman

    Aggieman I bleed blue and gold

    Aug 14, 2008
    I really don't like how Tomlin is concealing Ben Roethlisberger's status. It will be a whole different ballgame with Leftwich. That said, this is going to be a low-scoring game fit for a blizzard and two teams terrible at rushing. I think the Bolts offense did a great job taking out Bob Sanders and I think they could apply their method of doing so to Troy Polaumalu, only slightly less effectively. The Steelers main pass rush threat comes from the linebackers which our TE's and tackles pick up very well (Clary better have his head in the right place) so I doubt they'll really be able to get to Rivers enough to affect the The only real problem I see is in our running game. The Steelers match up very well against run-heavy teams due to their aggressive, stout defense and we may be forced to use Sproles more often than we'd like with very little success. Nope this one will be a game of inches and the only time we're going to get huge gains is when we're kicking the ball so thank God we've got Mike Scifres and I bet Kaeding will come through for us. I'm calling 17-14 San Diego with Kaeding kicking one through with less than a minute left.

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