The Steelers contest was the second game of the Ron Rivera era and provided a foreshadowing of things to come. Although the Chargers defense gave up 410 yards, it held the Steelers out of the end zone and sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times.
The San Diego defense continues to improve under Rivera's guidance. In the eight regular-season games after he took over, the Chargers allowed nearly a touchdown less per game (6.4 points). Also, the Chargers were plus-five in turnover differential during that span, after finishing the first eight games at minus-one.
WR Kassim Osgood
"[The weather] will be a factor in how you play the game," Norv Turner said. "When you get in those games, obviously, running the ball and playing defense are critical."
That puts even more pressure on the defense, because San Diego's ability to run the ball will be under scrutiny all week long. The Chargers expect to be without RB LaDainian Tomlinson (groin), who contributed 102 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the earlier meeting.
Darren Sproles looked up to the task in the Wildcard Round against the Indianapolis Colts, finishing with the third-most all-purpose yards in playoff history (328). However, it's debatable whether he can handle 35 touches for a second consecutive week.
Eight-year veteran Michael Bennett was impressive in spot duty against the Colts, but it's always scary to break-in a player during the postseason.
"Michael Bennett, we'll get him ready to go," Turner said. "He's going to be able to do a little bit more than he did last week."
When the emphasis switches to running the football and playing stingy defense, it's clear playoff football is in full throat. The Chargers will be the underdogs for the second consecutive week, but they head to Heinz Field brimming with confidence.
Since Coach Turner took over in 2007, the Chargers are 12-1 in December and January. If San Diego can run that win total to a lucky 13, it will earn a spot in the AFC Championship Game for the second time in as many seasons.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.