Chargers Brace for Meat of Schedule

The Chargers face the Steelers on Sunday after showing their mettle in a critical win over the Chiefs. The Chargers turned back the Chiefs on a late 2-point conversion for a win that possibly saved their season.

A win Sunday in Pittsburgh would get the Chargers back to .500 for the first time on over a month.

If the Chargers are to make a second-half run for the second straight year -- they went 7-1 last season -- they'll have to do it against the meat of the schedule.

A trip to Pittsburgh is followed by a visit by the Indianapolis Colts. Overall, four of the Chargers' final seven games are at Qualcomm Stadium.

"It's a hard stretch but the good thing for us is that a lot of them are home games and we always feel comfortable when we're playing at home," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Jeff Gross/Getty

They also are upbeat over the health of the team. Tomlinson is moving like he was prior to the toe injury he sustained early in the season and tight end Antonio Gates is also fit.

"I'm happy to put that behind me," Tomlinson said.

The Chargers are also setting sail with a new defensive coordinator in Ron Rivera. He'll be coaching the unit for the second game in Pittsburgh after his charges stopped the Chiefs Sunday with the game hanging in the balance.

"I think that the players responded," said Rivera, who took over for the fired Ted Cottrell. "We have to improve our pass rush."

That rush is missing Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, but the thinking is Rivera brings with him a more aggressive approach that leads to harassing quarterbacks.

"He's done a good job of simplifying things and let us go out and play full-speed," safety Clinton Hart said.

The Chargers will need a full-tilt attack against the Steelers, who are comfortable running and throwing the ball.

How the Chargers can contain Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be a big factor, one Sunday after giving up three touchdowns and 266 yards to the Chiefs' Tyler Thigpen.

But coach Norv Turner speculates the defense can build on holding off the last-place Chiefs.

"This group is mentally strong and obviously we've had some tough situations we've had to go through," he said. "That's why I'm proud. They keep hanging in there and fighting and doing all that I ask them to do. We just need to keep getting better."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we had energy; I think we gave them a good mixture." -- Coach Norv Turner, on the changes he saw with his defense under new coordinator Ron Rivera.

LINEUP WATCH: There were two significant changes to the starting lineup Sunday with CB Antonio Cromartie being replaced by Cletis Gordon and WR Malcolm Floyd in for Chris Chambers. Coach Norv Turner said the moves were a way to keep Cromartie and Chambers -- who are coming off injuries -- fresh for later in the game. It's unknown if Turner will start the game in Pittsburgh in this manner.


--CB Cletis Gordon, who started in place of Antonio Cromartie against the Chiefs, sprained his knee and will be evaluated this week.

--S Steve Gregory suffered a stinger and will be monitored this week.

--QB Philip Rivers has thrown for 300 yards in three of his past four games and four times on the season.

--TE Antonio Gates continues to prove his injuries are behind him after catching a season-high eight passes and his team-best sixth scoring reception in the win over the Chiefs.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson is now No. 15 on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 11,279 yards.

--WR Malcolm Floyd has a career-high three touchdown receptions and all three have come in the last four games.

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