Chargers Gameday Primer

Monday night. It is when stars are made. It is the showcase under the lights. For those who have only glimpsed the name LaDainian Tomlinson, his show will finally air nationally. And so will the rest of the Chargers – proving they are no fluke.

"They thrive on a good running game, just like we do with LT," quarterback Drew Brees said, setting the stage for a close game.

On Offense:

"It took us a couple of weeks to really get rolling," said running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Rolling they are – on the wheels of Tomlinson with a compliment of passes from Drew Brees. The offensive progression has always been through Tomlinson but it wasn't until the last two weeks that they have made it a priority and the results are easy enough to see.

The team is at its best when they supply a balance between the run and the pass and having Tomlinson active in the passing game opens up a zone in the defense that receivers can exploit.

Look no further than the backfield for that ignition key.

"I don't know if you're ever stop LT," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher admitted. "You have to try to contain him, but I think he's the best back in the game today. Look at the things he can do. I think the thing that impresses me the most is his balance."

The Steelers defense, however, figures to come after the Chargers – similar to the pressure the Bolts faced in weeks one and two. They lead the league in sacks per pass attempt. That means increased pressure on the offensive line.

"These guys are pretty similar to what we do," Brees explained. "They have unique blitzes they use. They are good at what they do. ‘Hey we are going to blitz you and here it comes. We don't care if you know what defense we are going to run.'

It will be up to the line to provide ample protection and up to Brees to see the hot reads. Scoring 40 points for the third straight week appears slim but there will be holes to exploit. There always are.

On Defense:

Power versus athleticism is the game. The Steelers boast a physical offensive line and they will run the ball. The tempo of the offense is slow, methodical and effective.

It will be up to the front line to be just as physical to allow the speed to take over the game.

"Their linebackers are going to rush and are very physical and athletic," said Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "We know it's going to be a challenge for us because we're a power team, and we're going to have to adjust to their athleticism."

Stop the run remains the top priority and Willie Parker adds a dimension of speed to the offense that has often been more about pounding the ball and causing the defense to submit.

"They want to run the ball," said backup linebacker Matt Wilhelm. "I'm sure they'll have some trick plays for us, but Parker is their guy. They also have a great backup who's a bruiser, so we have to be prepared for both of them. They definitely have some weapons."

And when Pittsburgh gets into third and short they turn it over to Roethlisberger. Leading the league in quarterback efficiency, the Steelers quarterback will be looking to find superstar Hines Ward and Antwaan Randel El. Their speed and superb route running present problems for the Chargers' secondary.

Roethlisberger can make as many plays with his legs as his arms.

"He is very patient," added Edwards. "If it is not there he will scramble and adapt."

Roethlisberger isn't going to take off very often but his head is always on the swivel and by moving around in the pocket he can find the open man. That also means that the secondary can't let up and must continue the coverage until the whistle.

On Special Teams:

Darren Sproles was back at practice on Saturday and he is a weapon the Chargers don't want to be without in what promises to be a tightly contested game. He is ranked third in the NFL in kickoff return average at 28.7.

Mike Scifres has been better over the last few weeks but has yet to land one inside the twenty on 13 punts with two going for touchbacks. He will also need to have a good game to help San Diego win the unheralded but vitally important field position battle.

Nate Kaeding hasn't been challenged in the field goal game and is perfect this year. The Chargers hope to keep it that way. His kickoffs have been much better this year than as a rookie and he is earning praise for his hang-time on a weekly basis.


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