Scouting Report: Chargers vs. Steelers

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The Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) hit the road for a primetime showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1). Kickoff from Heinz Field is set for 5:20pm PT.

What to Watch For…

On Offense for the Chargers

Fresh off the most efficient game in NFL history, Philip Rivers leads the Bolts into Pittsburgh looking to continue one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. Rivers has completed 239 of 344 passes (69.5 percent) for 3,119 yards, 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions for a 115.7 passer rating. He ranks fourth in the league in touchdown passes, eighth in yards and third in passer rating. His top target continues to be Keenan Allen, who has hauled in 69 passes for 848 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mike Williams has emerged as a touchdown machine with seven TD receptions on the year, which is the ninth most in the NFL. Finally, with Melvin Gordon recovering from a knee injury, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson figure to carry the load on the ground. Ekeler has toted the rock 70 times for 409 yards (5.8 ypc) on the year while Jackson has 12 carries for 64 yards (5.3).

On Offense for the Steelers

No team airs the ball out more than Pittsburgh as Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 472 attempts. That’s 25 more than the next closest quarterback. “Big Ben” has completed 312 of those passes (66.1 percent) for 3,664 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 picks for a 95.9 passer rating. The Steelers boast arguably the top one-two punch at wideout in Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Brown has 71 receptions on the year for 874 yards and 11 touchdowns while Smith-Schuster has 77 catches for 1,055 yards and four scores. However, the aerial assault is more than that pair as Roethlisberger loves to get his tight ends, Vance McDonald and Jesse James, involved as well. On the ground, James Conner has burst onto the scene as one of the top running backs in the league. The team’s bell-cow has over 160 more carries than any other player on the roster, Conner has carried the ball 186 times for 849 yards (4.5 ypc) and 10 touchdowns. He also has 49 receptions for 453 yards and another score.

On Defense for the Chargers

Joey Bosa made his presence felt last week in his second game back from injury as he recorded two sacks of Josh Rosen. Now he looks to keep that momentum rolling heading into Pittsburgh, looking to wreak havoc on Roethlisberger alongside Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks), Isaac Rochell (4.5) and Derwin James (3.5). James also leads the team with 82 total tackles while Desmond King paces the squad with three interceptions.

On Defense for the Steelers

The Bolts must pay special attention to Derek Watt’s brother, T.J., as the edge rusher ranks among the league leaders with 10.0 sacks. Still, he’s only one part of a dangerous pass rush that also features Cameron Heyward (6.0), Javon Hargrave (5.5) and Bud Dupree (4.5). In addition, Jon Bostic leads the Steelers with 66 tackles while Vince Williams and Dupree each have a pick-six on the season.

Series History

The Steelers lead the regular season series, 22-7, and are 14-1 at home against the Chargers. The Steelers won the last meeting, 24-20, but the Bolts got the best of the Steelers in the last trip to Pittsburgh by the score of 34-24. One of the greatest moments in Chargers history happened in Pittsburgh. On Jan. 15, 1995, the Chargers secured their first Super Bowl appearance by downing the Steelers, 17-13, in the AFC Championship Game.

By the Numbers

The Chargers rank sixth in total offense (402.0 yards per game), 10th in passing (273.2 ypg), eighth in rushing (128.8 ypg) and seventh in points (27.9). The Steelers rank fourth in total offense (420.8 ypg), second in passing (325.2 ypg), 27th in rushing (95.6 ypg) and sixth in points (28.7).

Defensively, the Bolts rank ninth in total defense (334.8 ypg), seventh in passing (227.3 ypg), 13th in rushing (107.5 ypg) and fourth in points allowed (19.9). Pittsburgh ranks sixth in total defense (325.1 ypg), sixth in passing (223.3 ypg), ninth in rushing (101.8 ypg) and 11th in points allowed (22.6).

Milestones on the Horizon

Keenan Allen needs 13 receptions to reach 405 for his career and pass WR Gary Garrison for No. 6 in franchise history.

Allen needs 100-plus receiving yards to post the 21st 100-yard game of his career to tie TE Antonio Gates for the fifth-most in team annals.

Allen needs 152 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the season and the first back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons by a Charger since WR Vincent Jackson did so from 2008-09.

Allen needs two touchdown catches to reach 28 and pass WR Don Norton (27) for 12th in Chargers history.

Antonio Gates needs six receptions to reach 952 for his career and pass Hall of Fame WR Andre Reed (951) for 17th in NFL history.

Gates needs 88 receiving yards to reach 11,835 for his career and pass Hall of Fame WR Don Maynard (11,834) for 28th on the all-time list.

Philip Rivers needs 300-plus passing yards to record his 62nd career game with at least 300 yards, tying Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre for the fifth-most in history.

Rivers needs 381 passing yards to reach 3,500 for the year, extending his streak to 11-straight campaigns for the third-longest such streak in history.

Rivers needs two touchdown passes to extend his team-record multi-touchdown pass streak to 13 games, tying for the second-longest streak in NFL history. It would also make him the fourth-ever quarterback to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of the first 12 games to start a season.

Joey Bosa needs 1.5 more sacks to reach 26.5 for his career, passing Houston DE J.J. Watt for the third-most in a player’s first 31 career games in NFL history.

Bosa needs two sacks to pass LB Billy Ray Smith (26.5) for 10th in team history.

Melvin Ingram needs 3.5 sacks to reach 44.0 for his career to pass LB Shawne Merriman for No. 6 in team history.

Noteworthy vs. the Steelers

On Jan. 15, 1995, the Chargers secured their first Super Bowl appearance by downing the Steelers, 17-13, in the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh. Tony Martin scored the eventual game-winner on a 43-yard pass from Stan Humphries. Natrone Means rushed for 69 yards while Junior Seau led the defense with 12 tackles.

In the last meeting in Pittsburgh (12/9/12), Phillip Rivers threw for three touchdowns, two to Danario Alexander, in a 34-24 win.

Overall, in six career games against Pittsburgh, Rivers has thrown for 1,533 yards, completed 61.4 percent of his passes and tossed 13 touchdowns for a 92.0 career passer rating.

Antonio Gates has caught 41 passes for 496 yards and six touchdowns in eight career games against the Steelers. In the last meeting in Week 5 of 2015, Gates caught nine passes for 92 yards with two touchdowns.

Connections

Mike Pouncey and Maurkice Pouncey are brothers. So are Derek Watt and T.J. Watt.

Chargers Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator George Stewart coached special teams for Pittsburgh from 1989-91.

Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt served in the same role for the Steelers from 2004-06, following three seasons as the tight ends coach (2001-03).

Strength and Conditioning Coach John Lott was a C/G for the Steelers in 1987.

Broadcast Information

NBC – Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Michele Tafoya (sideline)

KFI-AM 640 – Matt “Money” Smith (play-by-play), Daniel Jeremiah (analyst) and Shannon Farren (sideline)

Spanish Radio: KFWB – AM 980 – Mario Solis (play-by-play) and Jorge Villanueva (analyst)

Chargers radio broadcasts throughout the season will be able to be heard across ten radio stations from Southern California to Nevada. Fans can listen in English on KGB-FM and KLSD-AM (San Diego), KNWZ-AM (Palm Springs), KALZ-AM (Fresno), KBFP-AM (Bakersfield), KNWH-FM (Yucca Valley), KRLV-FM (Las Vegas), KRAK-AM (Victorville) and KATY-FM (San Bernardino). Spanish broadcasts can be heard on XHFG-FM (San Diego).

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