Know Thy Enemy: San Diego Chargers

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Get ready to experience deja vu this Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers face the San Diego Chargers.  If it feels like we play the Chargers an awful lot, it’s because we do.  In 2005, the teams played a memorable Monday nighter where Ben Roethlisberger was injured on the last drive of the game but the Steelers still managed to win thanks to a Skippy Reed FG with six seconds left.  The 2006 season saw Pittsburgh travel out to San Diego following their bye week and crap the bed to drop their record to 1-3.  Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.   We got a break from the Bolts in 2007 but made up for it in 2008 by playing them twice.  First, there was the infamous 11-10 game that should have been 17-10 if not for some of the most incompetent refereeing in recent history.  Finally, we met in the Divisional round of the playoffs, scoring a decisive 35-24 victory behind a huge game from Fast Willie Parker.

This year, the Chargers roll into Heinz Field with a 2-1 record.  Despite a significant decrease in production from the running game, their offense still ranked in the top third in the league last year. Philip Rivers posted the best passer rating in the NFL and has picked up right where he left off. Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers make for a dangerous WR combo and TE Antonio Gates is still one of the best in the business.  Oft-injured RB LaDainian Thomlinson is showing the effects of having over 3,000 career touches and it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll be suited up for the game on Sunday.  Fortunately for the Chargers, little Darren Sproules is emerging as a game-breaking weapon.

The Steelers offense will also have a bit of a different look.  FWP has been nursing a Turf Toe injury all week and his status is questionable.  He’ll probably try to go but if the injury hampers him too much, the load will probably fall on the detail-oriented Rashard Mendenhall.  Blocking for whomever carries the ball will be old friend Carey Davis, who was re-signed this week due to every fullback on our roster being out for the season.  I would like to amend my previous post to say when nuclear holocaust strikes, all that will survive are reality show airheads and Carey Davis.   Head coach Mike Tomlin has also indicated Limas “Butterfingers” Sweed will be riding pine in favor of veteran Shaun McDonald.

Defensively, the Chargers aren’t quit as intimidating as they once were.  Their unit really missed Shawne Merriman who went down and out with a knee injury after one game last season. The Chargers dropped from 42 sacks in ’07 to 28 last year and with the reduced pass rush, the secondary suffered tremendously. Merriman has already missed time this season with a groin strain.  See,  I told ya those threesomes were a bad idea.  Last I heard, he’s been practicing and is expected to give it a go this week which really makes a huge difference as far as their defense is concerned.

The Steelers will have no changes on defense, which is either good or bad depending on how you look at it.  Tyrone Carter, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons will be the guys most responsible for dealing with Gates over the middle.  If they play like they played last week, we’re in big trouble.  Also, would it be asking too much for what used to be the most dominating defense in the NFL to generate a turnover or two?  The team currently has 2 for the entire season to go along with a grand total of 4 sacks.  Both those numbers have to improve or this is going to be a looooong year.

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