Steelers 35 – Chargers 24
Willie Parker rushed for 146 yards & 2TD‚Äôs and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 181 yards and 1 touchdown as the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 35-24 to advance to their third AFC Championship game in five years. The Steelers controlled the ball for 14:43 in the third quarter which set the tone for the second half as the Steelers led 21-10 at the end of the third quarter. With 12:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, Gary Russell‚Äôs one yard touchdown run capped off a 2 play ‚Äì 49 yard drive to put the Steelers up 28-10. The Chargers¬†got within 11 but the Steelers responded like good teams do and Willie Parker sealed the game with a 16 yard touchdown run that resulted in a 9 play ‚Äì 73 yard drive. The Steelers outgained the Chargers 342 ‚Äì 290 and controlled the line of scrimmage as the Steelers had 36:30 in time of possession. The #2 Steelers (13-4) meet the #6 Baltimore Ravens (13-5) on Sunday¬†January 18th at 6:30 p.m.
Betting Line: Steelers are early five point favorites
Parker gets the running game going: All week we heard the Steelers were going to run the ball. The Steelers felt they had a great opportunity to be successful against the leagues 25th ranked defense and Willie Parker had a monster game rushing for 146 yards and two scores. The Steelers were able to get four red zone touchdowns which has been a struggle for them this season.
Offensive Line dominates in the trenches: The Steelers offensive line which has been a major question mark all season dominated the line of scrimmage and created many running lanes for Willie Parker & Co. The offensive line also did a superb job in pass protection. They gave Ben Roethlisberger plenty of time in the pocket and Roethlisberger looked very comfortable.¬†
Offensive Game Plan efficient: The Steelers had an identity today by establishing the run early but they didn‚Äôt get conservative. They took numerous chances down field which kept the Chargers guessing. The Steelers were 6-14 on third downs but they converted four third downs that were 3rd and 7 or more. Ben Roethlisberger made big throws at crucial times.
Play of the game: Santonio Holmes 67 yard Punt Return TD ‚Äì The Steelers offense was sputtering early in the game and down 7-0, Santonio Holmes provided a big play in the punt return game with a 67 yard touchdown that changed the momentum in the game.
Berger outperforms Scifres: A major concern for the Steelers heading into the playoffs was punter Mitch Berger. Chargers punter Mike Scifres made a name for himself last week averaging 52.7 yards on 6 punts but today Berger came through averaging 48 yards on four punts, while Scifres averaged 47 yards on five punts.
Woodley has four sacks in two career playoff games: As I‚Äôve been mentioning for the past couple weeks, linebacker LaMarr Woodley has been limited with a calf injury since week 10. Coming into today‚Äôs game Woodley had gone four games without a sack but the week off paid dividends for Woodley as he had a extra burst in practice through out the¬†week and today he was a force recording two sacks and five tackles.
Turnovers: San Diego 2 – Pittsburgh 0
Quick thoughts on the Ravens coming to town: Next Sunday will be a physical game but like it has been the past two games between these two division rivals, it will come down to quarterback play. Roethlisberger was the difference in both games and I just can‚Äôt see Joe Flacco outperforming Roethlisberger. The extra week off really helped the Steelers. The Ravens D looked tired and vulnerable against the Titans who gained 391 yards on the Ravens second ranked Defense
First half reaction
The Steelers head into the half with a 14-10 lead over the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers struck first as they moved down the field on their first drive and quarterback Phillip Rivers connected with wide receiver Vincent Jackson for a 41 yard touchdown pass. The Steelers responded with a Santonio Holmes 67 Yard Punt Return for a touchdown. A questionable fake punt call by the Steelers resulted in a turnover on downs and the Chargers went 20 yards on 7 plays that resulted in a Nate Kaeding 42 yard field goal to put the Chargers up 10-7 late in the first half. In the Steelers final offensive drive of the first half, they went 66 yards on 7 plays and Willie Parker capped off the drive with a 3 yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining in the half. Ben Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for a 41 yard pass reception that set up Parkers 3 yard touchdown run.
The Steelers have their running game going which doesn‚Äôt bode well for the Chargers. Parker has 52 yards on 10 carries. Parker rushed for 115 yards against the Chargers in their previous meeting. The offensive line is creating a lot of running lanes and they have done a superb job at pass protection. The Steelers need to get more pressure on Phillip Rivers but if they keep the running game going in the second half, the Steelers should be able to care of business
Photo courtesy of SteelCityHobbies