Bounce-Back Bolts Set to Rebound

The bounce-back Chargers are set to rebound from another regular-season defeat.

They did Saturday when avenging an earlier loss to the Colts by eliminating them from the playoffs.

Come Sunday, they get another shot when facing the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Back in November, the Steelers defeated the visiting Chargers, 11-10.

But the Chargers feel good about their chances come Sunday. It seems like they are playing with house money after starting 4-8 and now ending up four quarters shy of their second straight AFC Championship Game.

"Resiliency is a short-term and long-term thing," coach Norv Turner said. "It's been a week-to-week thing. We had a tough loss to Pittsburgh. That was a tough loss. We had some plays that didn't go our way that could have. We had some guys that had bad plays that normally don't. When you have that, it would be easy to, when you're struggling and having the type of season we were having at the time, point fingers or turn on each other."

The Chargers, though, didn't fold when nearly everyone else was ready to pull the rug from under their season.

"This group is so close," Turner said. "It's still a tribute to what the organization has done. From the ownership to the management; you bring in quality people. You bring in people of great character and great work ethic, and through the tough times it pays dividends. Everyone is great when it's going good. I just can't say enough about the type of players, the type of people that we have."

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty

That bodes well for Sunday's challenge. This close-knit squad rallied and didn't give up on each other - even if the playoffs were a long shot.

"The thing that's lost on this a little bit, and I talk about with our guys all the time, everyone gets caught up in, 'Do you have something to play for with the thought of making the playoffs?'" Turner said. "Every time you step on that field, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player, whatever your involvement in this thing is, you're representing yourself. You're representing the organization. You're representing the National Football League.

"It's a privilege to play football in this league. To do anything other than to go out and play at your best is not being fair to yourself or anyone else that's involved."

The result is a five-game winning streak that has the Chargers among the NFL's elite eight.

"That's where we talked about character, and people having pride in their performance," Turner said. "We have a lot of people that take pride in their individual performance ... wanting to represent themselves as a heck of a football player. Those are the things that help you when you're 4-8. It did help us. We were mathematically still in it. I'd be a liar if I told you I thought we were going to make the playoffs because there were too many things that had to happen at 4-8. I was positive that we could go and win. But there were a lot of things that had to happen. Fortunately it happened our way."

And coming their way, again, is Pittsburgh.

"It's just like playing Indianapolis again," Turner said. "We're familiar with them. They're familiar with us. I thought it was an advantage for us to be at home.

"Obviously the crowd and everything involved, that will be an advantage. That's going to be something we'll have to overcome there. But the fact that we've played in the stadium; we've been in the weather. We've handled it once in terms of knowing we can compete and play in that environment. That will help us."


--QB Philip Rivers thought RB Darren Sproles, despite his size, proved a lot in carrying the ball 23 times for 105 yards and a score in the win over the Colts. "It can't be a screen every play," Rivers said.

--Yes, the Chargers entered the postseason at 8-8 - only the seventh time that has been done. But coach Norv Turner knew that mark wasn't a true reflection of his team. "You are what your record is but I never felt we were as bad as that." Only two of those previous 8-8 teams were able to advance to the second round and both of them lost.

--RB Michael Bennett saw his first game action with the Chargers on Saturday after being picked up on waivers in November. He said he is ready come this week, if needed. "My body is fresh," said the former 1,000-yard rusher. "I haven't carried the ball much in the last two years. There is no added pressure - this is my eighth year and I've been through the highs and lows." Bennett rushed for 24 yards on four carries.

--OLB Shaun Phillips said the Chargers' recent 11-10 loss at Pittsburgh won't have much bearing on Sunday. "All that is out the window," Phillips said. "It's playoff time so there is a new intensity. Our mindset is the defense is the deciding factor in every game."

--The Chargers feature a high-powered offense but it goes against a defense in Pittsburgh that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher or 300-yard passing game all season. "That defense is good because a lot of those guys have been there for a while," Rivers said. "They force you to make mistakes." Rivers had his worst game of the season in the earlier matchup.

--Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has declined to speak with NFL teams to interview for head coaching positions. "My sole focus and concentration right now is helping the Chargers win a championship," he said. "Nothing else matters right now. I don't want to let anything distract from our objective."


--RB LaDainian Tomlinson's status won't be known until late in the week, as he will likely be a game-day decision with a groin injury. "I don't know. It's tough," Tomlinson said Monday. "This is a tough injury. I would probably venture to say it's probably the toughest of my career. We'll see what happens." Tomlinson suffered the injury in the regular-season finale, and he reportedly has a detached tendon that could require surgery.

--RB/KR Darren Sproles will see more playing time this week with the uncertainty of LaDainian Tomlinson's status. Sproles has rushed for 100 yards in the past two games; he had 328 combined yards and a touchdown in the win over Indianapolis.

--WR Malcom Floyd (collapsed lung) is back practicing and could be active this week.

--TE Antonio Gates (ankle) didn't participate in Monday's conditioning drills but should start on Sunday.

--DE Luis Castillo (groin) could be limited in practice this week, but he will start Sunday.

--OLB Antwan Applewhite (back) was restricted to riding a stationary bike on Monday. Applewhite has been effective in the Chargers' rotation among their pass rushers.

--LB Brandon Siler (foot) should be able to go this week.

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