By Teresa Varley
The San Diego Chargers could be without their all-everything running back LaDainian Tomlinson on Sunday because of a sore groin, but that doesn't mean they will be missing an explosive ground game.
Darren Sproles, the 5-6, 181-pound dynamo had an amazing outing against the Indianapolis Colts in an overtime win in the Wild Card playoff round. The Steelers know that he is someone they are going to have to keep a close eye on Sunday and his size makes it more of a challenge.
"He is not small, he is just short," said cornerback Ryan Clark. "He has a low center of gravity. He is able to make cuts a taller guy couldn't make."
Sproles was called upon to carry the load on the ground in the Colts game after Tomlinson came out of the game with just five carries. He responded with 23 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime when he burst free for a 22-yard score.
"It's a testament to how much heart he has," said Clark. "Guys are hitting him, getting big shots on him. He just kept coming back.
"He fumbled late in the game on the two-yard line and comes back and makes big plays for them. It shows the character he has."
Sproles isn't just a threat on the ground either. He finished the Colts game with 328 all purpose yards, pulling in five receptions for 45 yards and added 178 yards on kickoff and punt returns.
"He is a good player," said nose tackle Chris Hoke. "He is quick and explosive and LT is dealing with that injury. He does a great job of making people miss and hitting the holes so fast."
In the earlier meeting between the two teams at Heinz Field Tomlinson was healthy and Sproles only got one carry out of the backfield for no gain. He had one reception for nine yards and a kickoff return for 12 yards.
The Steelers, though, knew he was capable of doing what he did against the Colts.
"He has been doing it all year," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "He has been explosive all season. You just have to try and contain him."
And that is easier said than done.
"He fits into some holes I don't think my children could fit into," said Clark. "Hopefully we can get our hands on him a little bit and try to be physical with him."