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fordfixer
10-03-2009, 11:38 PM
Steelers seek to recapture finishing touch against Chargers

Clifton Brown
http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/article ... t-chargers (http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/article/2009-10-03/steelers-seek-recapture-finishing-touch-against-chargers)

Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 - 12:42 p.m. ET
The Steelers have never lost three consecutive games under Mike Tomlin, but that claim is in jeopardy heading into Sunday night's home matchup against Chargers. In consecutive road losses to the Bears and Bengals, disturbing trends developed.
The Steelers (1-2) coughed up late leads. They didn't generate a consistent running attack. Their pass rush was lacking. And their defense didn't force enough turnovers.
Is it too early to panic? Yes. Is Tomlin ticked off? You bet.
"It's a big week for us, coming off two disappointing road losses," Tomlin said. "I'm not even going to attempt to make any explanations or excuses for the results of those games. "The story of the National Football League is finishing out football games. In order for us to be what we desire to be, we've got to do a better job."

October could be a bounce-back month for the Steelers. They have won seven of their last eight games (including playoffs) against the Chargers (2-1).
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will be favored both in Week 5 (at Detroit) and in Week 6 (home against Cleveland).
However, here are five key questions that could determine the outcome of a Chargers-Steelers matchup that should be hard-fought and entertaining:

Can the Steelers run the ball effectively?
With star nose tackle Jamal Williams out for the season, the Chargers have looked vulnerable against the run. But the Steelers have issues at running back. Willie Parker (turf toe) did not practice all week and is not expected to play. Parker's absence is a big blow to the Steelers, considering he has rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive games against the Chargers.
Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore will carry the workload in Parker's place. Mendenhall is expected to start even though he was benched against the Bengals after a poor week of practice.

Steelers linebackers LaMarr Woodley (pictured) and James Harrison have one sack combined.
"He is not in the doghouse," Tomlin said. "I don't have a doghouse. A doghouse is something you have when you let things stew and you don't take action.
"Young guys have to earn the opportunity. He didn't do that to my satisfaction last week, so he didn't get the chance to play offense. I am not carrying any baggage into this week."

Can the Steelers put pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers?
Pittsburgh linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have one sack combined. The absence of star safety Troy Polamalu, who will miss his third consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury, has affected Pittsburgh's defense in a multitude of ways.
Without Polamalu patrolling the secondary, the Steelers look more reluctant to blitz. If Rivers has a comfortable night in the pocket, it could be a long evening for the Steelers.

Can Rivers outplay Ben Roethlisberger?
Rivers leads the NFL in passing yards, but he is 0-2 at Heinz Field, including a 35-24 loss in the playoffs last season. As the top three quarterbacks taken in the 2004 draft, Eli Manning (No. 1), Rivers (No. 4), and Roethlisberger (No. 11) are destined to be compared throughout their careers. Rivers is the only one yet to have won a Super Bowl. He can't do that Sunday night, but at least for one game Rivers could enjoy bragging rights over Roethlisberger.
"As a competitor, you look at other quarterbacks and see where you stack up, certainly guys in your draft class," Rivers said. "I think all of us would agree, having two championships gives him a bit of a head start there."

Can the Chargers reach the end zone from the red zone?
Over the last two games, the Chargers have produced one touchdown in 11 trips to the red zone. You would think a team with a wide receiver like Vincent Jackson, a tight end like Antonio Gates and a quarterback like Rivers would be more effective. After missing two games, running back LaDainian Tomlinson (sprained ankle) appears ready to return, which would give the Chargers another red zone option.

"Maybe I can take some of the pressure off things that we do down there," Tomlinson said. "Teams have to play us a little more honest."

Can the Chargers' running game get rolling?
The Steelers rank No. 27 in the league in rushing. The Chargers are even worse, ranked No. 31. Maybe Tomlinson can't withstand carrying the ball 25 times a game anymore, but the Chargers need him. Diminutive Darren Sproles is averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.