Chargers Game Day Primer

The San Diego Chargers will leave their snug hotels to face the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 PM PST on Sunday with dreams of a win dancing in their head. As much as a 3-11 team calls for a long winters nap, the Bolts are seeking a clatter before fixing this matter. To get a win they will face Bettis, Ward, Burress and Faneca. Hampton, Porter, Farrior and Gildon.

The Chargers will face one of the top receiving tandems in the AFC in Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. Despite Marty Schottenheimer wanting to play more man-to-man, press coverage, the Chargers -- with their tepid pass rush -- have had more success in playing Cover 2 zone. Look for them to stick with that when trying to track Ward and Burress.

That could change if the Chargers can generate a push against the offensive line. But so far this year, they have unable to do that, especially from the edges.

One Steelers' personnel man garnered praise on the Chargers secondary despite the struggles this year:

"All of those guys can flat out play. Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel are rookies but they're good. Jerry Wilson used to be a corner and now he's their free safety. He can cover. Quentin Jammer is one of the top corners I've seen this year."

Like every week this season, they will be challenged this week. How they hold up with little pressure up front will go a long way towards determining the fate of the game.

On the other side, the offense will need to be at its best against a strong quick linebacking crew that figures to be in the backfield often. It starts up front at nose tackle for the team and Casey Hampton will have to be stopped by an offensive line that has struggled to stay on the field.

"It's been a very disappointing year as a team and I think (Hampton) is the first one to recognize that," Bill Cowher said. "From his perspective I know he's a very proud player. We've got two good runners coming in here these next two weeks and we kind of challenged him with that. But he's been a very consistent player and that's the thing you respect about him."

One of those runners is LaDainian Tomlinson, the star of the San Diego Chargers.

"The guy is the most remarkable running back I have ever seen in my career," Schottenheimer said of LT. "The guy is absolutely remarkable. In my view, he is a combination of Walter Payton and Barry Sanders. He takes the best qualities from those two guys. He is absolutely remarkable."

It's ironic that Cowher would have to pump up his slumping NT for Tomlinson (and Jamal Lewis AT Baltimore next week). Then afterwards, Hampton was named to the Pro Bowl and Tomlinson was not.

The Steelers run defense, coincidentally, allowed Curtis Martin to run for 174 yards on them last Sunday.

The Chargers do have the potential of getting some yardage through the air, if, and this is a big if, they can keep pressure off Drew Brees.

Brees will need to get the ball out quickly. Not only is the offensive line iffy with an assortment of injuries, but the team is also dealing with the novelty of dealing with a 3-4 alignment. That means the blitz packages will be coming from strange angles and from different people. It's imperative the Chargers get everyone on the same page, or Brees is going to be someone's early dinner.

How soon David Boston can get open will also play into the equation. Without many other outlets for the ball, Boston has taken a lot of heat from the media and fans.

Schottenheimer defended his young wideout saying, "He played with an injury he sustained a week ago. He had several opportunities, made a great catch on the two point conversion. I am very pleased with David."

The Steelers secondary is young and also prone to bouts of inconsistency. Cowher has been supportive of his troops in a down year.

"They've been playing fine. Troy (Polamalu) has played very well, so has Ike (Taylor). Chris Hope has gotten extended playing time. He's played well. Really, three of the last four weeks we've held them to one touchdown."

Intangibles always will play a big part in a Marty Schottenheimer coached game. He is adamant about cutting down on penalties. He blames the youth for the mental issues the team faces weekly regarding penalties.

"Virtually half of the penalties, 48% have been committed by players in their first or second year," says Schottenheimer.

Cutting down on those will be crucial to the team's success. They can, and never have been able to afford to face situations of third and more than six.

Lastly it comes down to the coaches themselves.

Cowher and Schottenheimer, his mentor, will meet for the sixth time across the field but never in a meaningless game. Cowher's record is 3-2 against Schottenheimer, who gave him his first coaching job in Cleveland.

"We talk quite often," says Cowher. "They're obviously going through a tough time. It's amazing for Marty Schottenheimer: 17 years in this league and he's had one losing season. This will be his second one. I think anybody that stays in this business long enough can really appreciate what he's done on a consistent basis. He has a football team that's playing hard. You watch them."

Now if playing hard could only equaled wins, we would have something here.

As Cowher says, "There is nothing good that comes out of losing."

We couldn't agree more. Until next year on that note.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

Jim Wexell contributed to this report

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