Primetime Showdown In San Diego - By Christopher Stout
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|When the Steelers and the Chargers collide this Sunday night, physical defense and smash-mouth football will be on full primetime display. These two very bitter teams are each looking to correct their current courses.
After losing two straight games, Pittsburgh needs a win to stay afloat in the most competitive division in football. Big Ben needs to find his touch again. A passer rating of 34.3 just isn't going to cut it. Coming off the bye week, the Steelers should be ready to come out swinging against the Chargers. Hopefully we'll see some early no-huddle action, so that Ben can build his confidence early and get into a rhythm.
San Diego is still angry over it's collapse in the final minutes of last week's game against Baltimore. The conservative nature of Martyball has been attacked all week, and you can bet that the Chargers are tired of hearing about their non-aggressive style of play. The Steelers will have to deal with a week's worth of San Diego's frustration.
The fact that Marty is so conservative, however, only helps the Steelers. If Marty wants to limit Phillip Rivers to 10-15 passes, the Steelers will welcome San Diego's one-dimensional approach. Even though LaDainian Tomlinson is the best running back in the league, Pittsburgh defense will still present a challenge to LT.
The Steelers were built to stop the run. If Marty refuses to air it out, he'll end up playing right into the strength of the Steelers D.
What impact will Willie Reid have on the return game?
There is only one team in the league (Denver) that has a punt return average that's worse than Pittsburgh. Alternating between Ricardo Colclough and Santonio Holmes, the Steelers have managed to collect only 22 yards off of seven punt returns. That's garbage, especially for a team that ranked third in the league last season in punt return average.
Antwaan Randle El averaged just over ten yards a return in 2005. Of the nine punt return touchdowns scored in the NFL last season, two of them belonged to Randle El. Seven other players accumulated punt return TDs, but Randle El was the only player to score twice. Antwaan got his cash and now he's gone. Good luck to him.
Because Ricardo Colclough has a neck injury, the Steelers are going to get (a much needed) different look in the return game. With Colclough and his 1.5 yard return average on the sideline, Cowher can finally suit up Willie Reid. Reid hasn't been playing because Cowher didn't want to enter into games with more than five wide receivers on the roster. Now, out of necessity, Reid will finally get his chance.
Willie Reid and Santonio Holmes are going to split time returning punts. They will also both be on the field during kickoffs. Why is this exciting? Well, it's obvious that the Steelers return game needed a boost, and Willie Reid's ability to add that special teams spark is the reason why he was drafted in the first place.
While playing at Florida State in 2004, Reid put up a school-record 522 punt return yards. Deion Sanders was Florida State's previous record holder for punt return yards (503). Last year, Reid broke his own record and amassed 541 yards while returning punts, and he tied the Florida State's record for punt return touchdowns (3). His 83-yard punt return TD in the ACC Championship game earned him MVP honors. Reid was also the MVP of the Orange Bowl. He had 180 punt return yards in that game alone, an all-time record for bowl games. In short, this guy knows how to field a punt.
The Steelers return game really needed a new look, and it's sad that it took an injury to get this talented rookie some special teams playing time. Now that he's finally getting a chance, I can't wait to see what he can do.