TE Heath Miller vs. FS Eric Weddle
Miller has been the Steelers’ most reliable receiver this season in terms of catches, a lack of fumbles and getting on the field. He had one of the best games of his career mostly because he’s too fast in coverage for the Ravens’ deep secondary, and too strong for their linebackers.
He won’t have that same kind of advantage if the Chargers bring Weddle down to cover him. Weddle could be the game’s best all-around safety, exceling in coverage and run support. The Steelers may attempt to run combo routes between a running back and Miller to try to flood Weddle’s side of coverage, but throwing against him does not usually produce successful offensive results.
LT Max Starks vs. RE Corey Liuget
With all the recent offensive line shuffling among the Steelers’ front five, Starks’ name hasn’t been mentioned. That’s fitting for Starks’ 2012 campaign – relatively quiet, but present despite the chaos around him. Starks may be the most underrated player on a season that’s seen 19 players miss time with injury. Starks hasn’t missed a snap.
Liuget has been equally quiet, playing for a Chargers team that’s lost seven of its last eight games, but he’s become one of the league’s best 3-4 defensive ends. Starks has had some difficulty run-blocking this year, and he’ll struggle against the younger and more athletic Liuget, a star in the making. It’s likely the Steelers will need to use guard or tight end help on the offensive left side to keep QB Ben Roethlisberger upright.
LT Mike Harris and RT Kevin Haslam vs. OLBs James Harrison and Jason Worilds
The Chargers are perhaps the only team in the NFL with more injuries among its offensive line than the Steelers. With RT Jeromey Cleary and LG Tyronne Green unlikely to play, and LT Mike Harris questionable, the Chargers may suffer again through another sack-fest of QB Phillip Rivers (14 in last 3 games).
The Chargers haven’t run the ball particularly well this season, and Rivers under duress isn’t nearly as effective as Rivers with a clean pocket. Expect the Chargers to keep Rivers in shotgun much of this game, mostly to negate the increasing power of Harrison off his blind side. Harrison has 3 sacks in 3 games and is improving each week.
QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. QB Phillip Rivers
The 2004 draft classmates are leading their teams in different directions. While Rivers has been the iron man for the Chargers in what looks to be the last four games of the Norv Turner/A.J. Smith Era in San Diego, he appears to be forcing throws down the field and hanging on to the ball too long – leading to a league-high 15 fumbles. While pass rushes have crippled Rivers this season, he has the ability to throw his team to victory if he’s given time.
Roethlisberger is coming off the first three-game streak of missed games of his career, and was among the best in the game before being injured in Week 10. His return comes at the same time as left guard Willie Colon (knee) and the second game of WR Antonio Brown’s return. How much fluidity were they all able to regain this week remains to be seen, but Roethlisberger’s offense will need to be on point facing a Chargers team that’s lost, but not by much.