Heavyweights battle for AFC supremacy in San Diego
Posted: Monday October 10, 2005 2:48PM; Updated: Monday October 10, 2005 4:49PM
Steelers RB Ben Roethlisberger loves to go deep and will try to exploit the weaknesses in the Chargers secondary.
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This is one of the better Monday night matchups of the year with the winner emerging as the team to beat in the AFC. The Chargers just embarrassed the Patriots in New England, and the Steelers' only setback was a narrow loss to the defending champs two weeks ago.
The Steelers Win If ...
They control the time of possession. With one of the league's best running offenses and defenses, the Steelers are usually successful in this category. But New England had a big advantage in time of possession two weeks ago. The Patriots stuffed Pittsburgh RB Willie Parker and had success throwing short passes against Pittsburgh. Parker faces a San Diego defense that ranks seventh against the run. And the Steelers have both Duce Staley and JeromeBettis available this week.
The most intriguing battle of the game will be Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson versus the Steelers' D. Tomlinson is widely regarded as the best back in the NFL, but no one runs on Pittsburgh. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 17 games and had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL last year. Pittsburgh linebacker Clark Haggans is out with a groin injury, leaving second-year vet James Harrison to deal with Tomlinson.
The Chargers Win If ...
They play exactly like they did last week at New England. When both Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates are playing at the top of their games, the Chargers are nearly impossible to stop. San Diego's two stars combined for 275 yards of total offense against New England. And quarterback Drew Brees earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors by completing 19 of 24 passes for 248 yards and two TDs against the Pats.
Can LaDainian Tomlinson, widely regarded as the best running back in the NFL, penetrate the Steelers' dominating defense?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Chargers have been solid against the run, but their secondary is susceptible to big plays. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger doesn't pass much, but he can throw the deep ball and he'll try to victimize San Diego cornerbacks Drayton Florence, Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis. If Pittsburgh gets its running game rolling and San Diego has to move more defenders into the box, that could mean trouble for the defensive backs.
The Steelers entered the week third in the NFL in sacks with 14 -- an impressive stat considering they played one less game than most teams. They are experts at the interior blitz, which could cause San Diego major trouble.
Don't make the mistake of underestimating the Steelers because they lost to New England. The Pats may be banged up and they didn't show up against San Diego, but they are still the No. 1 team in the NFL until someone knocks them off. Pittsburgh is still a physically punishing team which can take control with its running game. The Chargers are going to come out pumped up. This is the first Monday night game in San Diego since 1996 (a 2003 game was moved to Phoenix because of wild fires), and they're going to wearing those cool powder blue uniforms. But the Steelers will be fired up as well, since they want to prove the New England game was a fluke. I expect Roethlisberger to engineer a couple of successful drives and that will take the crowd out of the game. Then Pittsburgh will control the clock and frustrate the Chargers.