The Chargers are 7.5-point underdogs on the road against the Steelers. That the spread is not in double digits is a small miracle.
Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger back after going with backups Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch for three games, while San Diego has lost 7 of its last 8.
The Chargers can still finish the season at .500 (they need to win 4 in a row to reach 8-8), which would extend Philip Rivers' impressive streak of never finishing an NFL season with a losing record. If that's going to happen, these men must make an impact on Sunday at Heinz Field.
1) Kendall Reyes: While Roethlisberger may be back from his shoulder injury, he's not 100%. He's a tough guy, but he's human. The best way to welcome him back is to pound on him and see just how much discomfort he can handle. Reyes got his first two NFL sacks a few weeks ago against Peyton Manning and the Broncos but has been shut out since. A return to the backfield against another Super Bowl champion QB will help the Bolts, but getting to Big Ben and actually getting him on the turf are two very different things.
2) Danario Alexander: The kid from Missouri has been a revelation. He's only been with the team for 6 games and Philip Rivers has already targeted him more often than Eddie Royal or Robert Meachem (insert own joke here). Alexander's biggest impact has been felt in two areas the Chargers need it most ... on 3rd down and in the 4th quarter. On 3rd down situations, Alexander has caught 11 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, where the Bolts seem to have mastered the art of collapsing like a cheap folding chair, Alexander is averaging 15.4 yards on his seven catches (one for a touchdown). If the weather, which is supposed to be cold, wet and windy, keeps the game close, Alexander's the man Rivers will likely look to.
3) Anyone with the letters "OL" next to his name: The Chargers offensive line is a MASH unit. Jeromey Clary is out, Tyronne Green is doubtful, and Mike Harris is questionable. The Bolts signed two players (Colin Baxter and Stephen Schilling) this week. Both spent time with the team last year but haven't been around for a while. They might be pressed in to service, as will Kevin Haslem, who will get his first start at right tackle. The Steelers are tops in the NFL against the pass. They won't have Ike Taylor or LaMarr Woodley, but they're still one of the best units in the game. If the mash-up of new guys on the line can't keep Philip Rivers upright, it's going to be another long, dreary day for Bolts fans.