Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chargers vs. Steelers Pregame

To win tonight's game, the Chargers will have to do more than they've done all season. Specifically, they'll have to get to the quarterback and run the football.

As the UT's Kevin Acee says here, San Diego must get to Rothlisberger:

With Shawne Merriman still gimpy, whether it's the reconstructed knee or new groin injury, getting to the quarterback more does not look likely. Rookie Larry English has improved weekly, if he takes a huge leap forward in this game and shows some of the dominance he displayed in college, San Diego has a chance, if not? Charger fans will be disappointed as Big Ben saves drive after drive with crucial third and long completions.

LaDanian Tomlinson will return this week and it will be very interesting to see how much the Chargers actually use him. Is his "recovery" just a ruse? Will he just act as a decoy? Because LT was able to practice on consecutive days this week without a relapse, it would appear Norv will actually give him a chance to run the ball. I'm just not sure a less than 100% LT can do much against a Steelers defense that, Polamalu or no Polamalu, can still stop the run.

Maybe Steelers' fans love their team a bit too much!

The Chargers' offensive line has not clicked in any game this year, before or after the injuries in Oakland. I think the run blocking problems may have more to do with coaching than injuries and personnel. All that being said, huge athletic right guard rookie Louis Vasquez returns from injury this week and will get a chance to show if he bend the running game curve in the Chargers' favor a bit more.

With Polamalu out though, the Steelers have some major vulnerabilities to the San Diego offense. Most obviously, the long passing game to Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd should be more open than it has been. Polamalu has also been one of the better defenders of Antonio Gates, and if the Steelers find themselves throwing desperate blitzes at Rivers (and they will) the middle of the field will be open for the San Diego tight end. Perhaps most importantly, Polamalu, in the last two meetings, was one of the best on the Steelers' defense at sniffing out and stopping the screen play to Darren Sproles before it starting rumbling down field. Despite that, the Chargers still hit that play for a few big gainers. Look for Norv to really go after this tonight.

Even with all the Steeler flaws, it seems like Mike Tomlin still has the ability to spark this team onto a superior effort at home against the Chargers. Pittsburgh will come out flying around. Will San Diego? Unless something changes and someone new steps up, without Merriman, San Diego will fall just a tad short in the fire and aggressiveness category, and be playing from behind most of the game:

Steelers 24, Chargers 20

I hope I'm wrong, but someone besides Rivers needs to show some leadership and make some championship caliber plays in this night game on the national stage. If the Chargers do win tonight, and go into the bye week at 3-1 with the tender meat of the AFC West up next on their schedule? The dream season will materialize once again. This game is that important.

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