The major storyline of this weekend’s battle against the San Diego Chargers is that the offense’s ringmaster, the director of the three-ring circus, Ben Roethlisberger is returning to the starting lineup. In Big Ben’s absence, the Steelers went 1-2, and would have gone 0-3 if not for Charlie Batch’s courageous performance in Baltimore. With Roethlisberger behind center, Pittsburgh likely would have gone at least 2-1, but that’s in the rearview mirror. This team hopes to look forward to these final four games as a springboard for a playoff run.
The San Diego Chargers’ season has quickly unfolded. They had second half leads in each of their last two games at home – versus Baltimore and Cincinnati. Both of the Steelers’ divisional foes came back to defeat San Diego, including the miraculous 4th and 29 reception by Ray Rice, to all but seal head coach Norv Turner’s fate this offseason.
One team looking forward, one team looking at what could have been. Pittsburgh would be best served to not look too far forward and focus on the opponent at hand.
Ten Fearless Predictions
1. Ben Roethlisberger will be a bit rusty, after being forced to the sidelines in the second half of the Kansas City Monday Night game with shoulder and rib injuries. He will not be in peak physical condition yet, and has not taken a hit in nearly four weeks. Big Ben’s QB rating in the game immediately following at least a one-game injury absence is less than 80.0 (5 TDs, 6 INTs).
2. San Diego will rely on the pass against Pittsburgh. Their running offense is even more anemic than that of the Steelers (26th in the NFL), so Philip Rivers will test the secondary without the services of Ike Taylor (for at least a few weeks with a hairline fracture in his ankle).
3. Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark will bait Rivers into a turnover. Polamalu has a history for taking the ball away from the San Diego QB. With Troy back in the lineup,Pittsburgh’s ability to turn over the opponent improves significantly.
4. San Diego has a stout defense against the run, so Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will have tough sledding…at least in the first half. By the second half, Pittsburgh will begin wearing down the Chargers’ front seven.
5. Pittsburgh will dominate the time of possession, relying on methodical playcalling and short third down conversions to maintain drives and keep San Diego off the field.
6. Antonio Gates will be a non-factor. As time has marched on, the wear and tear on #85 has become apparent. In years past, Polamalu would shadow Gates all over the field. This is no longer a necessity.
7. Due to injuries at the offensive tackle position forSan Diego, James Harrison and Jason Worilds (subbing for LaMarr Woodley) will wreak havoc all day long with their pass rush.
8. San Diego receivers will have at least one or two big pass plays deep downfield. Rivers will air it out against Cortez Allen. (Four months ago, who would have thought that opponents would shy away from Keenan Lewis?)
9. For once, the Steelers will win the turnover battle. Many different things lead me to this conclusion: Ben’s return,Troy’s increasing role, the potential for rain, and a reeling Chargers team.
10. Pittsburgh 27,San Diego 12. San Diego has never won in the Steel City (in 14 attempts). Sunday will be no different.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.