Chargers-Steelers: Pittsburgh Favored By Nine? Don't Make Me Laugh

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIJanuary 4, 2009 has reported that the Steelers will likely open as a 9 1/2 point favorite over a San Diego Charger squad that has really come on lately. While I certainly feel the Steelers should be favored to win the game, there is no way they should be huge favorites.

In their last game the Steelers couldn't get out of their own way after getting slapped with 13 penalties for 115 yards on the day, while San Diego had two penalties for five yards. If Philip Rivers and head coach Norv(!) Turner hadn't made a couple of huge mistakes, San Diego may have won the game going away. 

Instead, Big Ben Roethlisberger led his Pittsburgh Steelers down the field to beat San Diego on Jeff Reed's 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to play. To be honest, Pittsburgh may have won big if they hadn't tried to beat themselves with all of those penalties. 

Still, the field goal wouldn't have meant much if Turner hadn't made a major gaffe. His decision to have Rivers drop back to pass in the endzone had a predictable result: sacked for a safety.

The Charger defense has changed significantly since that last battle which was won by the Steelers 11-10. Big Ben routinely had receivers running wide open as San Diego's defensive backs were playing 10 yards off the ball all game long. Ben can not expect to see that again as the Chargers defense has returned to the aggressive style they used a couple of years ago under Wade Philips, unfortunately devoid of all the Shawne Merriman induced sacks.

The Steeler defense is probably the last defense QB Philip Rivers wanted to see.  The Steelers were one of only two defenses to keep him from completing a touchdown pass.

They picked off two of Rivers' passes. The first was a completely bone-headed decision inside the red zone at end of the first half. The second was merely an unlucky turnover off a deflection as Vincent Jackson dropped a perfect pass from Rivers, only to see safety Troy Polamalu make a spectacular one-handed diving interception.

Interestingly enough, San Diego gets to play their third straight do-or-die game against an opponent that scored the winning points with 24 seconds or less to play to beat them in the regular season.  However, this is the first of those games away from Qualcomm Stadium.