Steelers face Chargers team limping to season's end
Wanted: General manager, coach and starting offensive line for once-prominent NFL franchise. Linemen must be available to play Sunday in Pittsburgh. Others start shortly after season ends. All must be skilled in rebuilding, capable of working with oft-erratic quarterback Philip Rivers and equipped to beat Oakland Raiders twice a season.
The San Diego Chargers didn't resort to taking out want ads before traveling to play the Steelers at Heinz Field, but it was close.
A perennial contender not long ago, they were forced to pick up three offensive linemen virtually off the street to supplement an injury-destroyed starting unit. One of them, Reggie Wells, a former South Park High player, was doing laundry in his parents' house near the Pittsburgh airport when the Chargers called.
That came before word leaked that coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith were out when the season ends.
Not exactly the best way to prepare to fly cross country to play an internal clock-disrupting early afternoon game in a city where they are 0-14 during the regular season, right?
“You're playing a football team, not the time zone or the weather,” Rivers said.
Still, the Steelers (7-5) hope they're catching the Chargers (4-8) — losers of seven of eight — at the right time, or just when everything is going wrong for San Diego.
They're getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from a three-game layoff with rib and shoulder-related injuries. Their receiving corps is close to being fully healthy now that Antonio Brown is back. The defense shut down the Ravens late in the game last Sunday, enabling Shaun Suisham to kick a last-play field goal that decided their biggest win this season.
They don't want to let those positive factors slip away, not when they need a strong stretch drive to secure the playoff spot they currently hold, if only tentatively. And certainly not against a Chargers team that hasn't beaten anybody except the Chiefs since Sept. 16.
“Every week is going to be a key to the journey,” Brown said. “Every game from here on out is going to be exciting and interesting and will give us opportunity to make the playoffs.”
Roethlisberger, who watched the Steelers go 1-2 without him, can't afford to be rusty against a No. 9-ranked Chargers defense that is playing better than its won-lost record indicates.
San Diego's problem is an offense that has been limited to 13 or fewer points three times in the past six games. Rivers is the AFC's most-sacked quarterback, and it won't help that three-fifths of the line that started a 20-13 loss to Cincinnati last week is injured and out.
“I'm sure their coaches will do a good job of putting together a simplistic plan to make it easy on those guys so they can just go out and play as much as they can without thinking,” Steelers tight end Heath Miller said. “The quarterback is one of the best.”
As a team, the Chargers are one of the NFL's worst. And the Steelers understand they must take advantage of it.
“The sense of urgency is changing,” receiver Mike Wallace said. “This whole time it's been a pack race. Now that we're at the end, we've got to separate ourselves as one of better teams, one of the best teams in league.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Brown calls Sanders’ comments about Roethlisberger ‘terrible’
- Steelers hold high hopes for pass defense
- After years of lobbying, Big Ben has Steelers running the no-huddle
- Joe Greene only 2nd player in Steelers history to get number retired
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Inside the ropes: Shazier shows off speed
- Steelers are in familiar territory going into training camp in Latrobe
- Steelers hoping that youth movement breathes life into team
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler