The Steelers and Chargers go into Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field as two of the top teams in the AFC, both right in the postseason hunt.
It’s going to be one of those games where even the tiniest advantage can make a difference, and it could be as simple as playing at home, and on prime time, for the Steelers.
“It's a heck of a place to play a football game,” said Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn. “It's always fun when you go there. Their fans are really into it. It's a tough football team. Really a challenge for us.
“The environment, the atmosphere, the tradition that they have at that place. I can't think of the name of the song they play in the third quarter.”
Lynn got a quick reminder of ‘the song.’
“Yeah, Renegade. The place goes crazy.”
The Chargers didn’t just talk about the atmosphere at Heinz Field. They also weighed in on Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and much more.
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Quarterback Philip Rivers on what he sees from the Steelers defense:
“It's an attacking group. It's an attacking group. Saying that from a pressure standpoint. They bring some pressure, bring more than four a lot. But just in general, they just fly around and play like you've seen Pittsburgh play for many years.
“It's different than the Pittsburgh teams from way back, but very similar as far as same style of players. They play hard, fly around, get after both the run and the pass. They're really good. They’ll be back at their place now. They've been gone on the road a couple weeks. Will be a heck of a challenge.”
Linebacker Uchenna Nwosu on the Steelers overall:
“Pittsburgh is a great team. It’s going to be a good challenge for us to see where we are as a team.”
Cornerback Casey Hayward on the Steelers in general:
“They have really good players. You look at the numbers. You go back to AB, year in and year out putting up crazy numbers. We have to try and contain those guys. They are pretty good players.”
Coach Anthony Lynn on Roethlisberger:
“He can make all the throws, he's very accurate. He's a scrambler. He made a lot of his plays off creating. We got to get him down. We got to get pressure on him first. The offensive line is doing a heck of a job. But we got to get Ben down because he's a strong guy. He can throw with five people hanging on him. He's a Hall of Famer for a reason.”
Lynn on bringing Roethlisberger down, and coverage on Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“It's going to be tough to bring him down. That's his trademark. We have to do a good job of doing that and doing it clean. We won't want unsportsmanlike penalties. We’ve got to get him down but we also have to stay with our guys in the secondary. They're creating and making big plays in the secondary off scramble drills. It's going to be important. Move out of the pocket, you got that coverage, you got that cat, stay with him.”
Rivers on being linked with Roethlisberger since they are from the same draft class:
“Shoot, we're probably similar in a lot of ways. Obviously he does a great job extending plays, moving around, hard to bring down, hard to sack. Probably made a lot more plays on the move than I have over the years. In a lot of ways, we both like to stand in there, don't mind holding on till the last second to make a throw, take a hit, all those things.
“He's been a heck of a player for them for a long time. Again, it's never about the other quarterback. You have to worry about that defense. But I always enjoy and appreciate when the quarterback on the opposing side, whether you're linked from a draft class, whether it's a guy of his caliber, it's always awesome going against those teams led by those kind of guys.”
Rivers on if there is a rivalry with him, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning from the 2004 NFL Draft class:
“I don't see it that way. I think you compete amongst quarterbacks. There's probably some that tell you they don't. I think they're probably lying to you. But I don't go into this game thinking...I don't from that standpoint.
“You know you're going to be linked to guys. I'm excited that I'm a part of that group. Heck of a group to be a part of. Thinking back to '04, all of us still on the same team, the games, the yards, all those things, how many games we've played in, been available for our teams. I'm excited to be a part of those two guys, what they've done. I hope they feel the same way. I think it's something we can look back and be proud of, that draft class. But I don't check to see where we all stack up, all that stuff. I know we all three have sustained pretty long, good careers.
“One thing obviously those two guys have been able to lead their teams and do, we all know. We haven't. But we're going to keep fighting like crazy to get it done.”
Hayward on the Steelers offense and Roethlisberger:
“Our offense has to keep them off the field. Run the ball. Stop the run. Just try and contain those receivers. They have some good players. Hopefully we can get some rush. He is a big guy. We have to keep them off the field as much as we can.
“You have to stay with your man the whole play. It’s never down. Especially with (Ben). He has somebody hanging on and he’s still throwing the ball down the field. And those guys making plays. We’ve got to stay on our man longer than we normally do.”
Lynn on the offensive line:
“I think the offensive line has done an outstanding job of protecting him and giving him time to throw the ball. I think they have done a heck of a job. I think they are one of the best we have seen all year. They are big. They are powerful. They are not running the ball as much as they used to, but when they do run it, they are physical. They are doing a good job of being efficient. They are doing a heck of a job protecting Ben in the passing game.”
Nwosu on former USC teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“The cool thing about him is he hasn’t changed. Everybody thinks he’s in the NFL, the perception is different. But he has been like that wearing Superman suits to class, having nice cool little kid backpacks. He has always been like that. He always has that characteristic to him. He has always been that cool funny dude. I look forward to playing him.”
Hayward on James Conner:
“He has been doing pretty good this year. Numbers wise and the highlights I have seen, he is doing really well.”
Rivers on memories at Heinz Field:
“We've been there a couple times late in the year. Y'all was watching in post-season. Both the atmosphere from a fan standpoint, and usually there's some weather involved.
“I just thought kind of an old-school football team all the way around. Obviously Ben has been there forever on the offensive side, leading that group. Then just defensively, they always just had tough, really good players that rush the passer, they hit. I feel like some of the most physical games I've been in have been at Pittsburgh. Haven't fared very well there over the years.
“You have one of those old-school NFL atmospheres. Throw in the fact it's in December with two teams that are right there in the hunt in the AFC, right there in the hunt, you expect a heck of a game.”
Rivers on hearing Renegade at Heinz Field:
“I remember that vividly in the 2008 playoff game. They sang that live right there. Big snowflakes falling pregame. It was like out of a dream. This is it. Doesn't get any better than that, right from the coin toss. The game didn't go so well, but...”