Chargers to strike through steel

Electric the past two weeks, the San Diego Lightning Bolts face a stiff test with the Steel Curtain. The answer is elementary my dear Watson.

For generations, countless experiments in grade school science labs have proven that electricity flows through steel. Before a national television audience on ABC Monday night, America will learn if the San Diego Chargers' offense – outfitted in its classic 1960s uniform – can move through the Pittsburgh Steelers in a matchup of 2004 division champions.

San Diego (2-2) has won back-to-back games in impressive fashion. In the past two weeks, running back LaDainian Tomlinson has darted for 326 yards and five touchdowns while throwing a TD pass and adding 62 receiving yards for good measure. Quarterback Drew Brees has completed a whopping 38 of 46 passes (82.6 percent) with four touchdowns and no interceptions in those two wins.

Pittsburgh (2-1), rested after a bye week, counters with a pass rush averaging one sack every 7.7 pass plays – best in the NFL. A defensive front seven with four All-Stars will challenge the hot Chargers. Offensively, despite his last name, running back Willie Parker is anything but stationary, standing fifth in the AFC with 327 yards despite the bye. And oh, by the way, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wears a shiny 131.8 passer rating – the league's highest.

"Monday Night Football has that magic to it that everyone's going to be watching," says Steelers head coach Bill Cowher (16-6, .727 on MNF), whose team aims for a franchise-record-tying ninth consecutive road win Monday. "And you're playing a good football team that has won last year and this. There's always a lot of excitement that goes with Monday night."

Adding to the 2005 season's excitement is Tomlinson, who Cowher calls "the best back in the game." The fifth-year pro from TCU owns a 17-game streak with at least one TD – second longest in NFL history to Pro Football Hall of Famer Lenny Moore's 19-game streak from 1963-65. Tomlinson can reach 70 career TDs in his 68th NFL game with two touchdowns on Monday night, which would equal the fewest games played in NFL history to score 70 TDs:

Steve Van Buren* 68
Jim Brown* 69
Lenny Moore* 71
Chuck Foreman 74
Emmitt Smith 74
LaDainian Tomlinson ** ???

* Pro Football Hall of Famer
** 68 TDs through 67 career games

When head coaches Cowher and Marty Schottenheimer meet during pregame warm-ups, their handshake will unify 26 years of friendship and mutual respect shared by the two Pittsburgh natives. From 1980-82, Cowher played linebacker for the Browns while former NFL linebacker Schottenheimer was his defensive coordinator. Schottenheimer became Cleveland's full-time head coach in 1985 and offered Cowher his first NFL coaching job. Cowher worked on Schottenheimer's staffs until 1992 when he signed on for his present position with the Steelers.

"He is a great competitor," says Schottenheimer of Cowher. "I have great regard for him. He's a great friend. When we get the opportunity to compete against each other, there is something special in it."

Including one playoff victory against the Steelers, Schottenheimer is a win shy of 10 career victories against his hometown team. A look at the three coaches who have beaten Pittsburgh at least 10 times since 1970:

Jeff Fisher 11
Don Shula 10
Sam Wyche 10
Marty Schottenheimer 9

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