Before we get into what is big this week, lets look at the statistical breakdown of the game:
Passing: Roethlisberger: 22/31, 276 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD
Rushing: Parker: 25 car, 93 yards, 2 rec, 36 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Wallace: 7 rec, 102 yards
Passing: Rivers: 18/33, 303 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 1 rushing TD
Rushing: Sproles: 18 car, 41 yards
Receiving: Jackson: 5 rec, 120 yards
Offense (rank in NFL)
Pittsburgh: 346 yards/game (12th)
San Diego: 382 yards/game (8th)
Pittsburgh: 265 yards/game (7th)
San Diego: 315.7 yards/game (2nd)
Pittsburgh: 81 yards/game (27th)
San Diego: 66.3 yards/game (31st)
Pittsburgh: 15.7 points/game (25th)
San Diego: 24.3 points/game (8th)
Pittsburgh: 289.3 yards/game (8th)
San Diego: 322 yards/game (14th)
Pittsburgh: 76.7 yards/game (6th)
San Diego: 142.3 yards/game (26th)
Pittsburgh: 212.7 yards/game (15th)
San Diego: 179.7 yards/game (t-8th)
Pittsburgh: 16.7 points/game (t-7th)
San Diego: 21.3 points/game (19th)
I know last week was a pretty important game division wise, but I think this is a pretty big game in the whole big picture of the year. Lets not get it twisted, I feel that this is a very winable game for the Steelers. Prime time, at Heinz field, after a loss. It all adds up to a lot of good feelings for Steelers fans. The Steelers are something like 10-1 in prime time games under Mike Tomlin. The Steelers are very good in this situation, and I am very excited to see how they react to a tough game. The Steelers have won 34 of their last 43 games at Heinz Field and have a 13-0 advantage when San Diego visits Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are going to have to continue to pound the rock with Willie Parker. Now, I know that Willie is having some turf toe and that will hamper him a little bit but the Chargers are not very good against the run and the Steelers need to exploit that. Not only is the run going to be key for the Steelers to controlling the football but it will also set up the play action for Big Ben. If Ben can get some play action and hold those linebackers for an extra second it is going to open up gapping holes in the middle of the field for Heath Miller and Hines Ward to keep the chains moving. Expect a good does of running early on from the Steelers.
The offensive line has to continue to do a good job protecting Ben and opening holes for Willie. Max Starks played a really nice game for the Steelers and the line as a whole has done a nice job over the first two weeks of doing their job. What they do isn't pretty and its not going to make the from of SI, but it wins football games. Ben has only been sacked seven times in four games. Last season he was sacked eight times in week three. The Chargers are without Shawne Merriman so they have to take advantage and keep Ben clean and give the backs so creases.
The wide receiver situation became a little bit clearer last weekend with Mike Wallace grabbing seven passes for 102 yards. Limas Sweed was a big reason that the team did not put the game away late when he dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone that he had all the way until he hit the ground. A HUGE drop. Now Wallace looks to be in the number three spot and Mike Tomlin went as far to say that Sweed might not suit up for this weeks game. I do not expect to see Limas on the field and I expect Shaun McDonald on the field for the Steelers. I am ok with that. McDonald is a solid possession receiver that will move the chains.
One thing the Steelers HAVE to do this week is finish inside the red zone. When I say finish, I mean put the ball in the end zone. Too many field goals and too many points have been left on the field so far this year. Last week the Steeler kicked field goals instead of getting touchdowns and it burned them. It could have been 21-0 instead of 13-0 and would have made it a much different ball game. Convert.
On the other side of the field the Steelers are going to have to keep Philip Rivers in check. Sure he is an immature baby that hasn't won anything yet but he still can beat you with his arm. Rivers leads the league in yards thrown early in this young season and as we saw last week he is still able to run the ball in for a touchdown. James Harrison and Lamar Woodley is going to have to step up and get some pressure on Rivers to force him to make the mistakes that we all know he can make.
Antonio Gates is going to have to be accounted for also. He is a huge part of their offense and without Troy in the lineup the Steelers are going to have to know where he is at every single time he steps on the field. LT is going to be playing from what it looks like. I don't know how much this means except it will probably take Sproles off the field, which is good. All in all the Chargers have some good skill players and they should not be taken lightly or else the Steelers could fall to 1-3.
For the record the Steelers haven't lost three staright games since they dropped three straight from Oct. 22-Nov. 5 2006. Lets not have that again.
Me? I am taking the Steelers 27-24. Book it.
Here We Go