Steelers hope for repeat performance

Two of the quarterback jewels from the 2004 draft class will square off for the second time this season in Heinz Field when Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers play Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in Pittsburgh Sunday.

The Steelers beat the Chargers, 11-10, in Heinz Field on Nov. 16 in a weird game on a cold and snowy day. For one, it's the only time in the history of the NFL a game was decided by that score. For another, Roethlisberger threw for 308 yards, Willie Parker ran for 115 and Hines Ward caught 11 passes for 124 yards and Pittsburgh did not score a touchdown. The Steelers outgained the Chargers 410 yards to 213 but had 13 penalties to just two for San Diego.

And, safety Troy Polamalu's fumble return for a touchdown on the last play of the game was disallowed, costing those who bet on the Steelers giving the five points. The NFL later admitted referee Scott Green should have ruled it a touchdown.

"It's always good to see what a team likes to do the first time around," Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend said of the rematch. "I'm sure they're going to have new stuff. It's great to go out and play a team well. For us, it's just trying to get some of their tendencies we saw the past couple weeks but they are a good football team."

Roethlisberger far outplayed Rivers that day. He completed 31 of 41 passes with no interceptions and had a rating of 96.4. Rivers, the NFL's ratings leader, was 15 of 26 for 164 yards, two interceptions and a season-low rating of 44.4.

"Let's hope he has another day like that, huh?" said Pittsburgh defensive end Aaron Smith.

The Steelers held the Chargers to just 66 yards rushing. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who likely will not play this Sunday, had 57 of them. Darren Sproles, who had a career day last Saturday against the Colts, had one carry in Pittsburgh for no yards, one reception for nine yards, one kickoff return for 12 yards and one fair catch on a punt. Tight end Antonio Gates caught two passes for 10 yards.

"We have to stop Gates and try to control their passing game, and try to control Sproles," Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "Hopefully, it will be snowing and 20 degrees. But it really doesn't matter. At this point, it's one game and go home; everyone knows that you work all season to get to the playoffs."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They happen every week in football. You just hope that he can respond well and come back from it and get a chance to practice and doesn't have any lingering effects from it." - Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich on the effects on Ben Roethlisberger from his Dec. 28 concussion.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 - Steelers' string of victories in their first playoff game after earning a bye, dating to 1994. Their last bye came after the 2004 season.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES: QB Ben Roethlisberger did not practice last week when the Steelers worked on Tuesday and Wednesday. He should be ready to practice this week and play on Sunday. ... LB James Harrison, who left the season finale with a hip pointer, did not practice last week but should resume on Monday. ... RB Mewelde Moore began the season returning punts and kickoffs. He has not returned a punt in the past four games and returned one kickoff in the past five. ... CB Ike Taylor had just one interception this season, but he led the secondary with 14 passes defensed, three more than S Troy Polamalu, who had seven interceptions. ... WR Hines Ward led the Steelers' non-kickers in scoring for the first time since 2005. He had seven touchdown passes.


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