By Danny Cox
The struggling San Diego Chargers have no way of winning the AFC West with a 4-8 record with four games to go. They really have no way of even getting into the playoffs, either, but they don’t want to go out as huge losers at the end of the 2012 season. Well, they’ve got a four-game losing streak going as they travel to Heinz Field to face the Steelers and Pittsburgh is getting a “big” weapon back just in time.
Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has missed the past three weeks with a sprained right shoulder, and he has now healed up enough to get back into the starting line-up. It was announced on Thursday that Big Ben would be back in as starter for the Steelers after having Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch take their turns. Pittsburgh isn’t going to be taking things lightly though. They’re going to do whatever it takes to protect Roethlisberger from further injury.
Roethlisberger will be taking the field with a custom fit rib/chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-liner composite in his shoulder pads. This should help take in any hits to clavicle and shoulder areas.
Pittsburgh is 7-5 on the season, and sitting two games behind the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens (9-3). Even if they believe they can’t catch the Ravens, the Steelers can’t take it easy because the Cincinnati Bengals have a matching 7-5 record and are right on their tails.
One thing that will help take some pressure off of Roethlisberger’s first game back in three weeks is the defense of the Steelers. Pittsburgh has the number-one ranked passing defense in the NFL as they are allowing a mere 166.7 passing yards per game. Their running defense isn’t too shabby either as they are fifth overall giving up only 93.1 yards per game on the ground.
Considering just how awful things have been for San Diego on offense, Big Ben may not even have to worry about doing a whole lot. The offense of the Chargers has totally sputtered in recent weeks, and injuries are a huge part of it all. Their offensive line is beaten, bruised, and almost unrecognizable at times with some of the players that are starting for the Bolts. This could bring about huge problems for quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers has been sacked 14 times in the last three games and the Chargers’ rushing game has vanished.
Pittsburgh knows where the faults and cracks of the San Diego offense lay, and they’re going to take advantage of them. Cornerback Ike Taylor may be out with injury, but Troy Polamalu is back at safety and looking healthier than he has in a long time.
Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are both looking great for the Steelers and filling in nicely for Taylor, so it doesn’t appear as if any beats are being missed. If the wide receivers of the Chargers are as well covered as they’re expected to be, Rivers will run out of time quickly and that sack count is sure to rise.
One more loss for San Diego and they will have their first losing season since 2003. The way things are looking, that is what’s about to happen. With an overall top three defense and Big Ben coming back to rejuvenate a somewhat stagnant offense, the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to make a case for the AFC playoffs on Sunday.
And with that, they’re going to make an example of the San Diego Chargers.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Chargers news, see CBS Sports Los Angeles.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.