Chargers vs. Steelers preview

Two 2004 first-round quarterbacks...both 6-5...first meeting...each seeking to bounce back after losses. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11 overall in '04) last year became the youngest quarterback (23) in history to win a Super Bowl. San Diego's Philip Rivers (No. 4) is in his first year as a starter. Yet so far, Rivers ranks above Roethlisberger in almost every passing category.

These two won't be physically going at it, but LaDainian Tomlinson and the Steelers' rush defense will, and that matchup could be the key to the game. Tomlinson – the Chargers' all-time leading rusher (7,661 yards) -- already has 300 yards (and 11 catches) in San Diego's first three games. It is critical, say members of Pittsburgh's fourth-ranked NFL rushing defense, to stop "LT."

"He is fast, strong, has a low center of gravity," says Steelers linebacker James Farrior. "He can see anywhere on the field. The key is to stop the run. They don't want to put too much pressure on the quarterback because he is still learning."

A year ago (10/10) on a Monday night in San Diego, the teams met, with Tomlinson accounting for 130 total yards (62 rushing, 68 receiving) in a game with three lead changes before Pittsburgh took it 24-22 on a 40-yard Jeff Reed kick.

SERIES

  STEELERS CHARGERS
SERIES LEADER 19-5  
STREAKS Past 5  
COACHES VS. OPP. Cowher: 7-2 Schottenheimer: 9-8
LAST WEEK Bye (Wk.3 L 28-20 vs. Bengals) L 16-13 at Ravens
LAST GAME 10/10/05: Steelers 24 at Chargers 22. Pittsburgh K Jeff Reed connects on 40-yard FG with six seconds remaining.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/10/05
BROADCAST NBC (5:15 PM PT): Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer (Field reporter). Westwood One Radio: Dave Sims, Bob Trumpy, Kevin Kiley (Field reporter).

STATS

PASSING Roethlisberger: 35-71-349-0-5- 34.3 Rivers: 46-68-488-3-1-96.9
RUSHING Parker: 71-268-3.8-2Tomlinson: 77-300(3C)-3.9-3
RECEIVING Haynes: 10-59-5.9-0 Tomlinson (RB): 11-76-6.9-0
OFFENSE 286.7 354.0
TAKE/GIVE -2 +5 (3C)
DEFENSE 295.3 184.3 (1L)
SACKS Foote, Haggans, Porter: 2.0 Merriman: 4.0 (T3C)
INTs Five tied: 1 Jammer: 2
PUNTING Gardocki: 45.0 Scifres: 47.1 (3L)
KICKING Reed: 12 (6/6 PAT; 2/4 FG) Kaeding: 32 (T2C) (8/8 PAT; 8/9 FG)

Marty Schottenheimer ('84-88) was Browns' head coach when Bill Cowher began NFL coaching career as team's special teams ('85-86) & secondary asst. ('87-88).

Chargers:

Schottenheimer (193) needs one win to surpass Chuck Knox (193) for the seventh most wins in NFL history.

Quarterback Philip Rivers (96.7) is the NFL's 7th-highest rated passer with the third-best comp. percentage mark (67.6; 46-of-68) in the league.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has 87 touchdowns in 81 career games and needs three to reach 90 in the second fewest games (Hall of Famer Jim Brown, 81). Tomlinson (300) and Michael Turner (221) are one of four NFL teammate tandems with 220+ rush yards.

Wide receiver Keenan McCardell (10,756) needs 101 receiving yards to surpass Gary Clark for 17th most in NFL history. In the past six games at home, tight end Antonio Gates has 474 receiving yards (89.0 avg.) and six touchdowns.

Linebacker Shawne Merriman is one of only two linebackers with 4.0+ sacks and 1+ interceptions. The defense leads the NFL in fewest yards allowed (184.3) and has yet to allow points in the second or third quarter, outscoring opponents 39-0 in those quarters.

Long snapper David Binn will play in his 195th career game Sunday night, which would tie Doug Wilkerson (1971-84) for second-most with the team (200: Junior Seau, 1990-02; Russ Washington, 1968-82).

Steelers:

The Steelers seek their third consecutive win on Sunday Night. The club has been penalized six times, fewest in league.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has 11-2 (.846) career road record as starter, averaging 8.46 yards per attempt (303 atts/2,562 yards) in those games.

Running back Willie Parker rushed for 133 yards and a career-high two touchdowns versus Cincinnati in Week 3. He has 533 rushing yards (106.6) with four 100-yard games and three touchdowns in his past five contests.

Tight end Heath Miller averages 20.9 yards per catch (7-for-146), tops among NFL tight ends (minimum 5 receptions) and has converted 5-of-7 receptions for first downs.

Wide receiver Hines Ward (122) owns the fourth-longest active consecutive games streak with a catch.

Linebacker Joey Porter has 3.5 sacks in three career games versus San Diego. The defense ranks fourth in the NFL against the rush (78.3 yards/game) and has posted a top-5 mark in the league in four of past five years.


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