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Old 09-30-2009, 06:08 PM   #1
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Default Steelers vs. Chargers

Steelers vs. Chargers
TIME: 08:20 P.M. EST
VENUE: Heinz Field

The road hasn't been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Maybe a return to Heinz Field will help.

Pittsburgh tries to avoid its first three-game losing streak in three seasons Sunday night when it looks to maintain its home-field dominance over the San Diego Chargers.

Coming off three-point losses at Chicago and Cincinnati, the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers (1-2) are off to their worst start since 2006, when they opened 1-3 and finished 8-8.

"Finishing as Super Bowl champions and starting 1-2 is not how we envisioned our season starting," wide receiver Hines Ward said.

Finishing has been a problem for Pittsburgh, which has been outscored 24-0 in the fourth quarter of its last two games.

The Bears scored 10 unanswered in the final 6:21 to defeat the Steelers 17-14, and the Bengals had two touchdowns in the last 9:14 to pull out a 23-20 victory last Sunday.

Pittsburgh has not lost three straight since Oct. 22-Nov. 5, 2006.

"We have some work to do and we have a top-quality, familiar opponent coming in here that is a playoff-caliber team, and has been one perennially," coach Mike Tomlin told the team's official Web site. "We respect that, and we are excited about doing it back at Heinz Field in front of our fans."

Since Dec. 7, 2003, the Steelers have won 34 of 43 at Heinz Field.

The Chargers have never won in 13 regular-season matchups in Pittsburgh, and they lost 35-24 at Heinz Field in the divisional round of last season's playoffs.

LaDainian Tomlinson missed that game due to a groin injury as the Chargers were held to 15 yards rushing, and the five-time Pro Bowler could sit out a third consecutive game Sunday with a sprained right ankle.

San Diego (2-1) is off to its best start in Norv Turner's three seasons as coach despite being last in the AFC with 66.3 rushing yards per game. Darren Sproles is averaging 2.4 per carry while getting most of the attempts in Tomlinson's place.

"You can move the ball, but if you're going to be the type of football team we want to be, you're going to have to run the football," Turner said. "If you look at the good teams and the type of teams we would like to be, you see them run the ball."

Pittsburgh has the NFL's sixth-ranked run defense, allowing 76.7 yards per contest.

The Steelers' own ground game, though, has problems. It ranks 27th in the league with 81.0 yards per game and leading rusher Willie Parker missed practice Wednesday with a toe injury.

"It's painful, but it's something I can deal with, so we'll take it day by day," said Parker, who rushed for a season-high 93 yards against Cincinnati.

Parker was expected to share some carries with Rashard Mendenhall, but the second-year back did not get one last week.

"Young guys have to earn their opportunities," Tomlin said. "They have to make coaches confident with their ability to execute details of their assignments. (Mendenhall) didn't do that to my satisfaction last week and didn't get any playing time on offense as a result. I took action, but I don't take any baggage into this week."

Tomlin also can't be very happy with his kicker.

Jeff Reed hit 87.1 percent (27 of 31) of his field goals in 2008 but already has missed three this season, including two fourth-quarter tries versus Chicago.

The play of wide receiver Limas Sweed is also a concern for Pittsburgh. The second-round pick in 2008 may be deactivated Sunday after dropping Ben Roethlisberger's pass in the end zone in the third quarter of Sunday's loss.

"Quite frankly, he's not catching the football when he's deep down the field," Tomlin said.

Shaun McDonald could get the nod Sunday if Sweed does not play.

San Diego has been much better in the passing game, ranked second in the league with 315.7 yards per contest with Philip Rivers off to a strong start.

After throwing for a career-high 436 yards and two TDs in a 31-26 loss to Baltimore on Sept. 20, Rivers had 303 passing yards and a five-yard rushing touchdown in Sunday's 23-13 victory over Miami.

Rivers' run was his second career rushing touchdown and the Chargers' only TD in 11 trips inside the red zone the last two weeks.

"When you look at the tape, I think the problems we're having are correctable," Turner said. "I thought we had a chance a couple of times to throw a couple of touchdown passes. We just missed."

Rivers hasn't had a problem finding Vincent Jackson, who is second in the NFL with 105.7 receiving yards per game.

San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman is questionable against the Steelers after leaving in the third quarter last Sunday with a groin injury.

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Old 09-30-2009, 06:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers vs. Chargers


SCOTT BAIR - sbair@nctimes.com | Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 8:55 pm | (2) Comments

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Kickoff: 5:20 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Series: This is the 30th meeting of a series that began in 1971. Pittsburgh own a 21-8 lead in the overall series. The Steelers are 14-2 when playing the Chargers at home, but have never lost to them in Pittsburgh during the regular season. This will be the third meeting in the last 11 months.

Player to watch: WR Santonio Holmes

While the Steelers have a number of quality receivers, Holmes has emerged as deep threat who comes up with big catches in clutch moments. He obviously showed that last season with an excellent grab that essentially won Super Bowl XLIII. He picked up right where he left off, recording nine receptions for 131 yards and the Steelers only touchdown in a 13-10 win over Tennessee. All told, he has 15 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown in three games. While WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller are steady producers, Holmes is the most dynamic of the Steelers' receivers and must be accounted for at all times by the Chargers' defense.


The Pittsburgh offense has struggled this season and is the primary reason why the Super Bowl champs are 1-2. The Steelers haven't scored more than two touchdowns in a game all season. They've produced some uncharacteristic numbers thus far, including six turnovers and a paltry 81 yards per game on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger has four interceptions and RB Willie Parker is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. That means Pittsburgh's defense must be near perfect to ensure victory. The Steelers are a good offense in the clutch, and have strong pass catchers in Ward, Holmes and Miller. Roethlisberger has 860 yards passing for three touchdowns but is ever-dangerous in key moments and is the team's unquestioned leader.


The Steelers have only allowed 50 points in three games, but haven't been as dominant statistically as in years past. They've allowed 289 yards per game and have been pedestrian against the pass. Pittsburgh doesn't have an interception and clearly missed the physical presence of S Troy Polamalu (out with a knee injury) in the secondary. That's of particular interest to the Chargers, as they moved the ball almost exclusively through the air this season. QB Philip Rivers has been stellar, although he has taken some big hits. The Steelers pride themselves on getting to the quarterback, although they only have five sacks and a handful of quarterback hurries this season. That said, there's an abundance of talent in this underperforming defense, a dormant volcano that will inevitably explode. LBs James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior are among the best at their positions.


Normally steady K Jeff Reed has struggled, converting just 4-of-7 field goal attempts this season. The Steelers only win has come at home in the season opener versus Tennessee. A two-game losing has followed, something Pittsburgh hasn't done since 2007. Mike Tomlin is 2-0 versus the Chargers in his short tenure as Steelers head coach. Since 2002, the Chargers are 10-3 against teams that played in the previous Super Bowl and 5-0 against teams that won it.

Posted in Chargers on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 8:55 pm Updated: 9:02 pm. | Tags: Chargers, Nct, Nfl, Pro Sports, Sports,
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