Game day. Â This is a big game day for a host of reasons: namely, the Steelers need to beat the Chargers today. At already third place in the AFC North, losing tonight and having a 1-3 record creates a big hole to dig yourself out of in order to make a playoff run. Â Not that it can’t be done, it will just be difficult. Â Also, if the Steelers lose 3 in a row, it will be the first time since 2006, you know, the year after winning the Super Bowl…yes, that year.
When this year’s schedule came out, I was disappointed that the Steelers wouldn’t see the Ravens until later in the season, but now with Troy hurt, it’s a blessing in disguise. Â The Steelers need a win, and they have to do it without Troy. Â In the last 13 regular season meetings between these two teams, the Chargers are 0-13. Â Still, history didn’t mean anything last week when the Steelers lost to Cincinnati in Ohio, something also not done since Ben’s been the leading QB.
That said, a few things need to happen today to make this a check in the W column. Â First, the Steelers defense needs to pressure Rivers. Â He can’t be allowed to get in a groove on the field. Â Rivers has a 90% passer rating and is a great QB. Â The Chargers have adjusted to get the ball out quickly and move Rivers against tough defenses. Â His big target will be Vincent Jackson who has 16 catches for 317 yards and two TDs. Â Ike Taylor will have to play his A-game today and stay on top of Jackson. Â Rivers has been carrying the Chargers much like Ben has been carrying the Steelers. Â In order to keep Rivers upright, the Chargers will likely instill their 1-2 punch of LT and Sproles and get their running game moving. Â In the past, the Steelers have had a difficult time covering Sproles and he (a lot like the Steelers Logan) is due for a breakout in either returns or through gaps in defense. Â In addition, probably one of the more difficult of the Chargers to cover will be TE Antonio Gates. Â In order to cover him, the Steelers might have to task Timmons with that job.
In order to be able to run more effective blitz packages, or so it seems anyway, the Steelers will start Deshea Townsend at safety replacing Tyron Carter.
The defense will absolutely have to hold any leads in the 4th quarter. Â Both the Bears and the Bengals were able to rally in the 4th quarter and come out with wins through good drives and great clock management. Â Sounds a lot like the Steelers strategy last year, right? Maybe other teams have actually watched tape and learned something from Mike Tomlin!
On offense, Ben will need to continue to do what Ben does. Â That might include redzone plays for a TD (Ben has 2 TD’s this season). Â The running game will also be important for the Steelers. Â Last week, Willie Parker was finally able to get moving, but he ended up with turf toe and won’t see playing time against the Chargers. Â Mendenhall, who saw no time at all last week due to not knowing the playbook like he should have, has obviously studied up and will start. Â But Mewelde Moore should share a lot of that playing time with Reshard. Â Mewelde has been extremely consistent at running back for the Steelers. Â Last year he helped the running game and get the Steelers to the Super Bowl, while he’s not a big name fin the RB’s world, he’s consistent and someone the Steelers can depend on to get yards. Â In addition, and much to my sheer joy, the Steelers pulled Isaac Redman off practice squad yesterday to add depth at RB. Â Not sure what the plans are for Redman, I’m hoping he sees playing time in 3rd down situations. Â He was a threat in the pre-season. Â (This goes to show that sometimes “letters” get answered).
The Chargers defense will play without NT Jamal Williams and OLB Shawne Merriman, but they still have a threat with safety Eric Weddle who returned an interception 31 yards last week against Miami. Â In addition, CB’s Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie will keep Santonio and Hines to as little yardage as possible. Â The deepest and fastest threat, and someone the Chargers haven’t seen before is 3rd WR Mike Wallace. Â He could have a big game this week and doesn’t drop the ball.
This game, like all this season so far, will be close and hard fought. Â The Steelers need the win. Â The collective football ego needs to see a check in the W column…and if the football Gods align, the Ravens could lose to the Patriots…leaving the title for AFC North a little less predictable.
I’m going to go with a Steelers win (of course) at Heinz Field 21-20.
Crappy video quality, but I feel like I need to rally the troops….c’mon Black and Gold, let’s DO THIS!!!