OK, San Diego Chargers' fans: Before you read one more word of this so-called "Playoff Preview," do me a favor...
Take that paper, sitting in front of you that has the stats and play charts from that Week 11, 11-10 football game, between the Bolts and the Stellars, and crumple it up and throw it away.
That game don't mean jack!
I'm serious. Ask yourself this: Are the Chargers a different team than that bunch of dopes that played at Heinz Field on Nov. 16?
You're damn right they are!
Oh, here's another question: Are the Steelers the same team that played in that same game?
You gotta be kiddin' me. Not a chance.
For those of us who are partial to the Chargers, well, there's good news and bad news.
Now, the bad news: If you're going to Pittsburgh to witness this divisional playoff battle on Sunday, bring your lunch pail.
Hey, I like Indy as much as the next guy, but in the Steelers, you're getting a football team—plain and simple.
These guys hit hard on every down, every play, offense, defense, and special teams. They're not flashy. They don't have to be. They're the "Stellars."
If you go to Wikipedia and look up the word, "football," I'd guess that James Harrison's picture would show up above the fold; Keisel, Harrison, Polamalu, Woodley, Farrior, et cetera.
Mike Tomlin doesn't need a membership card to Bill Belichick's "video tape of the week" club to prepare his team for this Sunday's contest. The Steelers are already a fine tuned football machine. Sure, it isn't pretty, but for my money, it sure is effective.
They know what the deal is. It's blocking, tackling, execution, preparedness—all the things that make the Steelers a very difficult "nut to crack."
This isn't "Indianapolis, Part Deux" coming at you, Chargers' honks.
It's like trading in your marshmallow for a brick. It's going to be time to play football.
Yes, that's all bad news...or is it?
Not all the news is bad from my side of the fence.
These Chargers are not quite Dan Fouts' old Chargers either—a team that would fold up into a nice little ball once the weather hit 30 degrees and the game got rough. And this more recent Chargers' bunch has been in some blood baths as of late, courtesy of a few games against not only Pittsburgh, but the Tennessee Titans as well.
It certainly was a pleasant surprise when the Chargers responded so well in that 2007 game at LP Field in Nashville, when the Titans teed off on San Diego and started physically pounding on the Chargers, play after play.
After taking that abuse for about a quarter, the Chargers fired back and then some. I'm telling you, it was scary to see how much force San Diego came at the Titans with, as the game wore on.
Things worked out pretty well that day. The Chargers literally wore out the Titans with their own brand of physicality and pushed them aside in OT to grab a big road win.
Then, San Diego verified their dominance over the Titans in round one of the playoffs a few weeks later at home, beating the Titans yet again in similar fashion.
Now, did you throw out that Week 11 PITT—SD stat sheet like I told you?
Go on, throw it out. It's ok. Here's why you can now get rid of it...
1) Darren Sproles
In the Week 11 game between these two, Sproles carried the ball once. (laugh) Umm, well, I kind of think that he may just exceed that total on Sunday.
2) No Tomlinson on Sunday
Hey, he may come out and surprise the Charger faithful by starting again, even after the team announcement that he probably would NOT play.
3) Ron Rivera
He's had about a half-season to get his defensive side of the ball functioning properly, and by jove, he has.
The Chargers' ability to shift in and out of formations against Peyton Manning and change all those looks at the los with a purpose and not just for show, is big! Chargers' fans can trust Rivera to have his side of the ball ready to go come Sunday.
4) The Charger Offense
Pittsburgh made them look sad in that first matchup, and they may just pull that off again, but it won't be for lack of commitment or lack of preparation.
IMHO, the torch has been passed from LT to Philip Rivers.
This is his offense now. He may not put up Manning-like-numbers against the 2008 version of the "Curtain," but he'll be there to compete and do what's needed to win.
Wait, where have I heard a phrase like that before?
Oh yeah...from the Steelers.
I swear...that style of football must be tattooed on each and every player on the Pittsburgh roster. Forget about any problems with Ben Roethlisberger. He's playing.
Hell, he took a nastier hit from that motorcycle accident a while back than he did in that Browns' game.
Notice that the Steeler faithful don't even give the concussion in Week 17 any play. They know what the deal is...Ben's playing...end of problem.
So, with that "Big Ben" question aside, the rest of the "Stellars" are looking like they're in pretty good shape, ready to play.
OK, without further adieu, here's the real analysis of the upcoming Steelers—Chargers tiff, this Sunday...
60 minutes of hard-nosed football.
Turnovers, execution, and ball control. The team that controls the clock by being able to dominate the game on the ground will be the team in control of their own destiny.
The team that does that, makes the fewest mistakes, and also takes advantage of the big plays that come along will win this thing, plain and simple.
Smashmouth football and two QBs that know how to win. It's going be fun.
Oh, one last shout-out to the Chargers' brethren...
Don't get discouraged if the Chargers have their troubles moving the ball in the early going.
The Steelers do that to everyone. Patience.
Want to learn patience? Watch how Pittsburgh goes about getting the job done.
No panic, just 60 minutes of all-out football—just the way Philip Rivers likes it.
Yes, it's going to be fun.