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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
October 4, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
MIA at NE WAS at NYG DAL at PHI   updated

Prediction: PIT 17, SD 23

Now this is one of the must-watch games of the week. The Steelers have spent the last two weeks stewing over their 1-2 record while no one dares to ask "what's up with Ben?" The Chargers looked all-world going against the Titans and Raiders but dropped a close one in Baltimore when they couldn't stop the final drive by Steve McNair. High drama in this one with the Steelers on the road again to face a defense almost as good as the one that shut them out in Jacksonville.

The Steelers won 24-22 when they played in San Diego during week 5 of last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
1 28-17 MIA 10 --- NO
2 0-9 @JAX 11 --- @CLE
3 20-28 CIN 12 --- @BAL
4 Open Bye 13 --- TB
5 --- @SD 14 --- CLE
6 --- KC 15 --- @CAR
7 --- @ATL 16 --- BAL
8 --- @OAK 17 --- @CIN
9 --- DEN - MON THU
PIT at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 190,2
RB Willie Parker 50 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 60,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Nate Washington 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Though they own a 1-2 record, there's nothing really wrong with the defense for Pittsburgh and the Bengals game was more indicative of how short the field was for most Cincinnati drives. But the Steelers offense with Roethlisberger at the helm has hardly resembled the same one that won a Super Bowl. Heading to San Diego is not a great place to start a turn-around but the Steelers have spent two weeks preparing for this game.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has been almost the mirror image of the "no mistakes, make plays when you have to" quarterback that navigated the playoffs last season. He not only has no touchdowns after two games, he's throw five interceptions during that time - plenty enough to ensure those losses. With two weeks off to practice and prepare, Ben will look at this game to show he is back to form but has one of his toughest match-ups of the season.

Roethlisberger threw for 225 yards and one touchdown against the Chargers in 2005.

Running Backs: After three games, Willie Parker has two 100 yard games and comes off a 133 yard, two touchdown game against the Bengals. Problem is that second game of the year when he was on the road, like this week, and going against a tough rushing defense, like this week, and he only had 20 yards on 11 carries. Parker needs to have some success to keep the defense from rattling Roethlisberger but history says that is likely too big of a challenge.

Parker only gained 26 yards on ten carries against the Chargers last year.

Wide Receivers: Those last two games with Roethlisberger have been unkind to Hines Ward who only had four catches for 46 yards combined. Even with the week one game, Ward only has 99 yards on the season with nine catches. Cedrick Wilson chipped in a much needed 73 yards on just three catches in the last game but had just one catch in the season until that game. While Roethlisberger has been partly to blame, it is certainly not entirely his fault as the wideouts continue to drop passes. Nate Washington was expected to replace Antwaan Randle El in the slot has already dropped three passes this season including on in the end zone against the Bengals.

Ward had six catches for 83 yards in San Diego last year but never scored.

Tight Ends: In the two games with Roethlisberger, Heath Miller has only caught a total of three passes for 45 yards. In week one with Charlie Batch, Miller had 101 yards and his only score on the year.

Miller had four catches for 36 yards and one score in San Diego last year.

Match Against the Defense: While Parker is the best runner to face the Chargers so far, he is going against a defense that has never allowed any runner to top more than 34 yards in a game or score. Expect a down game here from Parker.

While Roethlisberger should be better this week, he goes against a tough Chargers secondary that has only allowed at most 37 yards to any wideout this year - tight ends have fared better though realistically OAK, TEN and BAL are hardly offensive powerhouses. Giving Ben the benefit of improving these last two weeks, look for him to throw for at least one score and possibly two given the shaky outlook for the running game. That should strongly favor Heath Miller this week though you can never count out Ward for at least a potential end zone catch.

San Diego Chargers (2-1)
1 27-0 @OAK 10 --- @CIN
2 40-7 TEN 11 --- @DEN
3 Open Bye 12 --- OAK
4 13-16 @BAL 13 --- @BUF
5 --- PIT 14 --- DEN
6 --- @SF 15 --- KC
7 --- @KC 16 --- @SEA
8 --- STL 17 --- ARZ
9 --- CLE - - MON
SDC vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 0 0 170,1
RB L. Tomlinson 80,1 40 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 50,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 30 0
WR Eric Parker 0 20 0
WR Vincent Jackson 0 30 0
PK Nate Kaeding 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Chargers came within one minute of play from being 3-0 and back at home host the staggering Steelers that still have to be considered dangerous - more than the Ravens that just defeated them. The passing game with Rivers is mediocre at best and as always the Chargers need Tomlinson to be the determining factor in games. The Chargers have already failed in their first test against a quality opponent and a loss here would likely drop them from the top of the AFC West.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers has been consistent in his first year as a starter but that's been consistently mediocre so far. Rivers has thrown exactly one score in every game but only once has topped 150 passing yards while depressing the numbers for Gates and the rest well below initial expectations. He had little reason to throw in the two big wins over OAK and TEN, but against the Ravens he only completed 13 of 22 for 145 yards. Tomlinson and great defense can win most games but Rivers needs to step up to keep the Chargers hope for a playoff run alive.

The Chargers passed for 219 yards and one score when they hosted the Steelers last year.

Running Backs: LaDainian Tomlinson only has one game over 100 rushing yards so far but he has scored three touchdowns and exceeded the century mark with receptions included every week. Whenever he needs a breather, Michael Turner remains one of the best back-up running backs in the league.

Tomlinson ran for 62 yards on 18 carries against the Steelers in 2005 but he scored once and added 68 yards on seven receptions.

Wide Receivers: Rivers has not ushered in a new era for the wideouts, he's almost giving a reason to give a wake. Keenan McCardell has been nursing a hamstring strain and while he played last week he had no catches. Eric Parker only had four catches for 37 yards against the Ravens and that's as good as he has been this year. The two passing scores have ended up with Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd who have collectively only five catches on the season. This unit has really been hit hard by the easy early games and then the lack of chemistry that Rivers has created with them. There is no reliable fantasy value from this group.

Eric Parker had five catches for 72 yards against the Steelers last year but McCardell only had one catch for five yards.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates only has 10 catches for 121 yards and one score after three games - he's done more in a single game in the past. He remains the most heavily targeted receiver but that hasn't accounted for much more than 50 yards in a game.

Gates had five catches for 61 yards and a score when the Steelers came to town in 2005.

Match Against the Defense: Tomlinson faces a defense that is tough but not unyielding. Fred Taylor had 92 yards against this team and Ronnie Brown scored twice. Look for Tomlinson to have at least a decent game here from volume of carries and receptions and to score at least once.

Rivers needs to step up and the Steelers secondary can be exploited as long as he remains upright and doesn't throw interceptions as have all other opponents. Rivers is playing a very safe game to minimize mistakes and learn the position. Expect nothing more than an average game from him here with a chance for one touchdown.