SD Boasts Right State of Mind

If nothing else, the Chargers enter Sunday night's game at Pittsburgh in a decent state of mind after disposing of the Dolphins 23-13 to get above .500 in the regular season for the first time since 2007.

"We all feel good to be 2-1, especially with the type of adversity we faced early, both with injuries and with illness," quarterback Philip Rivers said.

Hopefully that injury list gets thinner and the virus that ran through the team's locker room has abated. The Chargers know they are going to face a Steelers team in a sour mood after it lost to the Bengals.

The Chargers know something else: They are going to get a full dose of Steelers football, which means a punishing ground game and battling a physical front.

"It's a big game for us," linebacker Stephen Cooper said. "It's a hostile environment, they are the defending Super Bowl champions, they are a good team and they are going to try and run the ball as well."

Why not? The Chargers, due in part because Pro Bowl tackle Jamal Williams is lost for the season, have been getting abused on the ground. The Chargers have allowed an average of 142 rushing yards per game.

"We still got a lot of things to fix," Cooper said, "especially our tackling and just playing sound defense."


FS Eric Weddle
Donald Miralle/Getty
The sound the Chargers can almost hear are those rabid Steelers fans ringing in their ears. They got a heaping helping of it in last season's AFC divisional playoff game, which the Steelers won 35-24.

"It's going to be a tough game, but you got to add in the motivation," said safety Eric Weddle, who returned an interception for a touchdown against Miami. "They know us, we know them. It's going to be a huge game for them, and a huge game for us. So we'll see what happens."

What's been happening on the Chargers offense is a stellar showing in the passing game. Rivers has thrown for 739 yards in his last eight quarters.

Good thing, because the running game has been stuck in quicksand, averaging 66 yards per game.

And that doesn't figure to get better, with LaDainian Tomlinson's ankle still throbbing and two fresh faces among the starting five up front.

But the Chargers are done looking back at three opening games in which their play was so-so.

"Last year we were 1-2 at this point," said Rivers, who has thrown for 739 yards the last two games. "That is a huge difference in 1-2 and 2-1. We are growing as a team; we're not where we want to be."

TRENDING: The Chargers have some impressive offensive players and an offensive wonk in head coach Norv Turner. But when the Chargers get in the red zone, they go dead. The Chargers head to Pittsburgh after scoring but one touchdown in their last 11 possessions in the red zone.

LINEUP WATCH: Defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo is getting more comfortable as Jamal Williams' replacement. Nwagbuo was on the Chargers' practice squad the last month of the 2008 season. Nwagbuo doesn't clog the middle like Williams, but he is starting to hold his own and Sunday will mark his third NFL start.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

-- OLB Shawne Merriman is hoping to be a full go for Sunday but he is questionable. He participated in just a handful of plays against the Dolphins because of a groin injury. Merriman is still looking for his first sack of the season.

-- RB LaDainian Tomlinson could sit for the third straight game with an ankle injury he suffered in the opener. If he skips another game, he would then have the bye week to give him a month of rest.

-- RG Louis Vasquez is expected to be back Sunday. Vasquez hurt his knee in the opener and hasn't played since.

-- WR Buster Davis, a former first-round pick, continues to be a healthy inactive.

-- WR Chris Chambers continues to be the forgotten man in the passing game. He didn't have a catch Sunday and has but two receptions for 30 yards in three games.


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