One of the blogs earlier this week pointed out that this game against the San Diego Chargers could be a trap game. I agree. The Chargers are famous for their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this season – and last season and maybe during all of Norv Turner’s tenure as the Charger’s head coach. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t ever win games.
All the sports prognosticators give the edge to the Steelers and I sort of agree. The Steelers have some momentum after beating the Ravens, but I like it better when they are the underdogs. I can only think of two games this season where I felt they were comfortably in control: Week 2 against the Jets and Week 8 against the Washington. If the Steelers were to play Washington against this season, I don’t know if it would be the same result. The rest of the wins have been within a touchdown or less. The Steelers barely beat the Eagles, a team with epic struggles this season. As the season progressed, the Steelers came out strong and held off the Super Bowl Champs, the NY Giants. Whether the severe weather of the week before had anything to do with it or not, the Steelers still took the W. The following week the Steelers barely beat the Kansas City Chiefs, another team with a phenomenally poor season. So, I think it is hard to take for granted that the Steelers will win against the Chargers. The loss to the Raiders shows that, at least at the beginning of the season, the Steelers also knew how to lose a game that was theirs to win.
I am a little shocked at how closely these two teams match up on paper. Yes, I know, statistics can be twisted to make any point, but humor me.
The Steelers are ranked 20th and the Chargers are ranked 26th.
Points per Game 21.52 21.5
Total Points 254 258
Yards per Game 342.0 322.1
1st Downs per Game 19.8 19.4
Fumbles 27 20
I see the biggest difference when I compare the QBs, Rivers and Roethlisberger, who were both drafted in 2004. Rivers has 18 TDs and 15 INTS over 12 games and his QBR is 85.1. Roethlisberger has 17 TDs and 4 INTS over 9 games with a QBR 100.0. Ben’s decision-making seems to have really improved this season and River’s has inexplicably declined. One area of concern is that Roethlisberger is coming back after an injury and may be a little rusty. If he can’t play the whole game, at least Batch has some momentum on his side.
There is a little bigger difference here. The Steelers defense is ranked 1st and the Chargers are 9th. I was a little surprised to see the Chargers ranked that high. Here are some other interesting comparisons:
Sacks 25 23
Interceptions 7 11
Forced Fumbles 10 16
Tackles 518 625
The Steelers defense is working together well and there has been much needed improvement over the middle games of the season. The Steelers kept them in the game against the Browns, right to the end and they made a huge contribution in the game against the Ravens. I know Ike Taylor is out, but I agree with most of the predictions that his absence isn’t the end of the world. I would rather he was in the game, but due to other injuries, the Steelers have some experienced back-ups.
I’ve seen predictions that this game could be close and I think that is realistic. If the defense can create turmoil for the Chargers in the 4th, that seems to be their Achilles heel. I think the defense will be the difference in this game. Rivers may just play great because he is facing someone from his draft class. However, the pressure may get to him and he may add to his interception total. Let’s hope the second Philip Rivers shows up. I also hope Ben is able to play without too much pain. I will cringe every time he takes a hit. I hope none of the Charger’s defense gets a helmet on that area and reinjures Roethlisberger.
One more thought – Suisham
Kickers never get any love and I have to look back at the difference Shaun Suisham has made in several games this season. The biggest one is last week’s game-winning field goal. Suisham has been in the league for eight years. He was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Steelers in 2005 but was released in August. He has bounced around the league but spent a few years with Washington. He had two full seasons (2007 and 2008) with that team and his field goal percentages were 82.9 and 72.2. Suisham was re-signed by the Steelers in 2010 as a replacement for Jeff Reed, who had been with the team for 8 years. Suisham played in 7 games in 2010 with a 93.3 field goal percentage. His percentage was down to 74.2 last year and I’m not sure why there were more missed field goals. However, it looks like the Steelers’ faith in him has paid off because he is on an amazing pace for 2012. Suisham is 24 for 25 in field goals after 12 games, missing one 50+ yard attempt. I know kickers aren’t in the game much, but I’d say that Suisham’s made some clutch contributions this year and thought I’d give him some well-deserved recognition.
Statistics courtesy of NFL.com and Steelers.com