Week 15 Preview: Pittsburgh vs. San Diego

The job at hand is to stop LaDanian Tomlinson. That is the one task of the Steeler defense. Although monumental, it is not out of the question. The Steelers have the players to stop Tomlinson, but do they have the scheme and more importantly the patience?

Stopping Tomlinson is not a matter of yardage or touches, but it is more a matter of containment: keep him in front of you and the job is half finished. Then it's a matter of sure-handed tackling, something the Steelers have lacked the past two years.

Who else on this San Diego team does a defense need to worry about? Drew Brees? Not yet. David Boston? Maybe after he loses some pounds. How about the tight end? That position always gives the Steelers fits. He may have had a big game last week but Antonio Gates has only 17 catches this season, so probably not him either.

So, let's repeat. The job at hand is to stop LaDanian Tomlinson. Tomlinson accounts for nearly half of the Chargers' total offensive yardage and one third of its touchdown production. He leads the team in receptions with 86. That's one less than Pro Bowl bound Hines Ward, for those fans counting at home.

Last week the job at hand was to run the ball against the worst rushing defense in the NFL, during blizzard conditions. However, the lack of patience on the part of the coaching staff led the Steelers to become pass-happy, in one of the most inexplicably ridiculous coaching displays in recent years.

Does that mean we'll see cover-two more than an 8-man front? Probably. Remember, if Curtis Martin could rush for 177 yards last week, Tomlinson (who is younger and faster) could account for double that amount. Those folks who are expecting Jamal Lewis' single game rushing record to remain unbroken better take a long look at this game, for Tomlinson has the ability and all the right intangibles to annihilate the Steelers ever weakening rushing defense.

So, let's repeat it one more time. The job at hand is to stop LaDanian Tomlinson.

OFFENSE

Pittsburgh: Ranked 21st (Passing 12h, Rushing 31st) – The wide receivers are dropping balls, Antwaan Randle El doesn't get enough touches, the running game is in shambles, and we still wonder why the Steelers can't get in the endzone.

San Diego: Ranked 15h (Passing 17h, Rushing 11th) – Tomlinson and Boston account for almost the entire offense of this once promising young team. There really isn't much more to say. The Chargers will dump the ball off to Tomlinson while the Steelers do a terrible job of masking their blitz schemes.

Advantage: Push. Both teams have weapons. Both teams make too many mistakes to utilize the weapons.

DEFENSE

Pittsburgh Ranked 9th (Passing 10th, Rushing 10th) – The stats on the run defense are quite misleading. Can anyone remember when the Steelers didn't get torched by a great running back this season? Kendrell Bell is going to the Pro Bowl. He sure has the talent, but he doesn't have the mean streak to go with it.

San Diego Ranked 30th (Passing 15th, Rushing 25th) – Another poor rushing defense will have to deal with the second worst rushing offense. This means the Chargers will probably have to win the game in their secondary. First, because the Steelers should have a rushing edge, and second, because the Steelers will probably throw the ball a ton.

Advantage: Push. The Steelers have the stats; the Chargers have Tomlinson.

QUARTERBACKS

Tommy MaddoxMaddox has been hurt recently by dropped passes and poor weather conditions. He can't throw and catch the ball. Yet, the fair-weather fans are out to vilify Maddox as if he is the sole reason why the Steelers aren't scoring touchdowns.

Drew Brees – Brees had a career-best passing day last week against the Packers but turned the ball over three costly times, fumbling twice and throwing an interception. It doesn't help the young quarterback that the Chargers have been shuffling offensive linemen even worse than the Steelers have this season.

Advantage: Maddox is the better quarterback, but that won't matter today.

OUTLOOK: The Chargers win by 7, ending a dismal home campaign for the Steelers. The Black and Gold end the season 3 – 5 at Heinz Field.


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