Pittsburgh (2-1) at San Diego (2-2), Monday 9:00 pm EDT
SAN DIEGO (Ticker) -- LaDainian Tomlinson and Ben
Roethlisberger grace the Monday night stage when the San Diego
Chargers host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle of division
champions from a year ago.
Tomlinson and Drew Brees led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and
the AFC West title last season. However, San Diego was beaten
in the wild card round by the New York Jets.
Roethlisberger was 13-0 as a rookie last season as the
Steelers finished with an NFL-best 15-1 record, but lost in
the AFC championship game to the New England Patriots.
Roethlisberger's first regular season loss also came to the
Patriots, 23-20, on September 25. He completed just 12-of-28
passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, but has the league's
top quarterback rating of 131.8. He has passed for 688 yards
and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Chargers snapped the Patriots' 21-game home winning streak
with an impressive 41-17 victory last week.
Tomlinson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and Brees
completed 19-of-24 passes for 248 yards and two scores.
Regarded by many to be the NFL's best all-around back, Tomlinson
followed up a 192-yard rushing performance against the New York
Giants with a big day against the Patriots and extended his
streak of recording a touchdown to 16 straight games, three shy
of tying Hall of Famer Lenny Moore's NFL record.
Tomlinson leads the league with eight touchdowns and needs two
Monday to reach 70 in his 68th game, tying the fewest games
played with 70 touchdowns by Steve Van Buren of Philadelphia.
Tomlinson rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries
in the Chargers' 40-24 loss at Pittsburgh in the last meeting
between the teams on December 21, 2003.
Jerome Bettis, who has yet to play this season due to a pulled
calf muscle but may return for the Sunday night game, rushed for
115 yards in the last meeting between the teams.
Willie Parker, an undrafted rookie in 2004, has taken over as
the team's feature back due to injuries to Bettis and Duce
Staley and has rushed for 327 yards in three games.
The Chargers will wear their 1960s powder-blue jerseys on Monday
Matchup to watch: Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, who
had six catches for 108 yards in last week's win at New England,
faces strong safety Troy Polamalu.
Series: The Steelers lead, 18-5, winning the last four meetings.
Coach Bill Cowher is 6-1 against San Diego.
Next week: Pittsburgh hosts Jacksonville, October 16
San Diego visits Oakland, October 16.
Clayton's mailbag: Why owners stick together On issues from Deflategate to Los Angeles relocation, NFL owners are showing how unity keeps them powerful, John Clayton writes. Plus: blocking extra points, the NFLPA's angle and more.
Despite flying cross-country, the Steelers should be fresh, healthy and ornery after 15 idle days following their crushing home loss to the Patriots. Thanks also to the bye week, Pittsburgh will gain more offensive re-enforcements. RB Jerome Bettis will see his first action of the season, and RB Duce Staley will be even healthier for his second game back from injury. However, after rushing for 327 yards in three games, expect former undrafted free agent Willie Parker to continue to carry the heaviest load against a Chargers' run defense that is surrendering just 91.5 yards per game.
On the flip side, the Chargers will look to keep the ball rolling following a momentous road victory at New England. RB LaDainian Tomlinson will try his luck against a similarly stout Steelers' run defense, which is surrendering only 96.7 yards per contest. With so much beef up front for both of these defenses, this game likely will be decided by the quarterback -- Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) or Drew Brees (Chargers) -- who makes the most plays and fewest mistakes.