Chargers-Steelers Prediction: 2008 "Steel Curtain" Too Much for San Diego

Joe KleiberCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2009

The San Diego Chargers are the hottest team in football right now. They upset the Colts last week and will look to continue their hot-streak against the rested and "tough as nails" Pittsburgh Steelers.

I don't like this match-up for the Chargers. They scored on an overrated Colts defense last week, but the Steelers defense is on a whole other level.

Darren Sproles provided the Chargers with a spark last week and carried them to victory. Sproles had 105 rushing yards with two TDs, including the game-winning score in over-time. He also added 5 catches for 45 yards and had 106 kick/punt return yards.

The Steelers will look to stop Sproles first and force the Chargers to become one-dimensional with Philip Rivers.

Rivers didn't have a great game last week, but didn't need to. He will have to step up this week to win the game, because the Steelers always shut down the run. Rivers has proven he can win games by himself and will need to once again this week.

The problem is he had a hobbled Antonio Gates, no LT, a distracted Vincent Jackson and an inconsistent Chris Chambers. These problems might catch up to San Diego this week. The last time these teams met, the Steelers barely won 11-10 in a weird game.

The Steelers possess the top defense in the NFL. They rarely had hiccups and will look to dominate the Chargers defensively. The Colts had a few problems moving the ball last week, but had a few big plays.

The Chargers defense has improved dramatically lately and will look to stop Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off a concussion two weeks ago.

The last time "Big Ben" played off a concussion, he didn't play well so he'll have to prove his critics wrong and play well enough to win. He has struggled a bit this year, because the offensive-line has struggled to protect him and has led to fumbles and crucial interceptions.

The Steelers have also struggled to run the ball this season, because Willie Parker has been in and out of games and the run-blocking has been poor. They ranked just 23rd running the ball and that could hurt against a fired-up Chargers defense.

The Steelers will need to find running room and protect Big Ben enough to keep the Chargers offense off the field.

Prediction: SD 14 PIT 21


Boom: Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Steelers defense

The Steelers should attack the Chargers via the air this week, because that's where the Chargers struggle most. They ranked 31st against the pass and Ben knows how to get it done in the playoffs. Expect them to have much success passing this week.

The Steelers defense is a tough match-up for Philip Rivers and Darren Sproles. Sproles has not seen a defense like this before, so expect the Steelers defense to bottle him up and force Rivers into mistakes.

Predictions: Roethlisberger: 295 passing yds 2 tds 1 int; Ward: 8 catches 96 yds 1 td; Holmes: 4 catches 90 yds; Steelers defense: 5 sacks 2 ints 1 fumble recovery 14 pa


Antonio Gates, Chris Chambers

Gates is a tough player and played through his injuries last week. Expect him to be a big part of the offense once again this week. Chambers had a nice game against the Colts with four catches for 57 yards.

With most of the attention on Vincent Jackson and Gates, it will open things up for Chambers. Predictions: Gates: 7 catches 75 yds 1 td; Chambers: 5 catches 80 yds


Bust: Philip Rivers, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Chargers defense

Rivers will be forced to throw, because the Steelers will stop Sproles. Sproles provided the Chargers with some much needed explosiveness last week, but the Steelers have mostly stopped speedy and shifty backs like Sproles all season.

The Chargers defense played well in the second-half last week, but don't expect a repeat performance against the Steelers. They have struggled on the road and Heinz Field won't be any easier for them.

Predictions: Rivers: 250 passing yds 1 td 2 ints; Sproles: 50 rushing yds 4 catches 30 yds 1 fumble; Jackson: 2 catches 20 yds; Chargers defense: 3 sacks 1 int 21 pa


Sleepers: Nate Washington, Heath Miller

Washington has been the Steelers deep-ball threat when Santonio Holmes is covered. He has made some big catches this season and could have one or two big catches again this week.

Heath Miller had a disappointing fantasy season, but Big Ben will look his way often when the Chargers blitz. Miller has been one of his favorite targets and will be a red-zone target also.

Predictions: Washington: 3 catches 70 yds ; Miller: 5 catches 60 yds 1 td

This should be a great game, but the Steelers should pull away late and force Rivers into mistakes. Enjoy the game!