This Chargers offense is an underrated unit, sitting third in the league in yards per game. It hasn’t necessarily translated into points, with them scoring 24 points a game at this point, but they have shown the ability to move up the field.
The return of Antonio Gates provides a proven weapon in the red zone, and the possibility he teams up with Ladarius Green in two tight end sets gives them another wrinkle on offense.
Pittsburgh come into this game as one of the better defenses in the league, allowing only 18.5 ppg, 9 points less than the Chargers have been conceding on average. Stephon Tuitt has been one of the best on that defense, and the Chargers need to neutralize what he and Cameron Heyward can do if they want to keep Phillip Rivers clean.
The Steelers have done a great job of stopping the run this year, but slipped up in letting Justin Forsett rip them a few times last week. Melvin Gordon has the most 20+ yard runs in the league so far this year, so they will have their work cut out trying to keep the tandem of Gordon and Danny Woodhead in check.
The Michael Vick Factor
There were a lot of mixed opinions on Vick’s performance against the Ravens. I thought he struggled. His legs always make him a threat if he gets the room, but when he didn’t have the option to tuck and run he looked lost. He held onto the ball way too long at times and seemed to struggle to progress past his first read.
If the Chargers can avoid giving up big running plays from Vick, and force him to make decisions with his arm, they can force turnovers.
As always, situation has to be taken into account. The Steelers are coming off a devastating loss to a hated division rival in the Baltimore Ravens, but do get an extra few days rest having played Thursday night. The Chargers are coming off a fortunate win against the Browns.
Both teams have big games coming up, the Steelers playing the Cardinals and the Chargers going to Green Bay. It would be interesting to see if either of these teams overlook this game a little bit.
Key Player For Each Team
The key player in this one for the Steelers is Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers were criticized heavily for going away from Bell during overtime last week, and you would think they won’t make the same mistake twice. Brown’s production looks to drop significantly with Big Ben out, so Bell should be the main man for Pittsburgh.
Key player for the Chargers is Antonio Gates. He may just be coming back from suspension, but if he can have a similar impact to last season he could be what opens this Steelers defense up. If he can get enough snaps, he is a real red zone threat as well as a guy that can take some defensive focus off Keenan Allen as well as being able to help create room for the running game.
I have to go the Chargers here. I got on it when they were -3, now you will be hard pressed finding it at less than 3.5. Whilst that hook is a major pain in the ass, I would still be fairly comfortable playing the Chargers in this spot. I feel the Chargers can lead early, which could potentially take Bell out of the game to an extent.
Having Vick in doesn’t just hurt them at QB, it takes away the huge impact Antonio Brown has had for this team. The Ravens didn’t test the defense much last week, but the Chargers will. I think Rivers continues to be able to move the ball, and for the Chargers to win comfortably.
I won’t be touching the total, considering we have a team in the Chargers whose point scoring hasn’t corresponded with yardage, and an offense in the Steelers who aren’t nearly as good as they were two weeks ago. Too volatile for me. If I had to lean one way I would probably go the under.
Final Score – Steelers 16, Chargers 25