By Teresa Varley
The Steelers have been watching plenty of film on the Chargers this week and there is one thing that they know for sure – they will have to be prepared to defend the screen pass at any given moment.
"It is tough because they run the screen all the way down the field," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "They do it when they are backed up; they will do it in the red zone; they will do it everywhere. We just have to continue to practice it. It is tough for the defensive line because we are trying to get to the quarterback, and that is when they have had so much success. Their offensive line does a good job of shedding guys and getting out into the secondary. We just have to be on our feet."
Running back Darren Sproles has been the perfect weapon for quarterback Philip Rivers on the screen pass and his height, 5-6, makes it tough on defenders.
"If you watch them, their linemen do a very good job of getting out in front," said safety Ryan Clark. "Then, you throw in that you cannot see (Sproles) because he is hiding behind those guys. When he sees those holes or creases, he is usually going at full-speed so we have been practicing this week just running to the ball when they throw a screen. It is going to be a team effort to stop him and to force him inside so that we can just make plays."
The defense knows that the Chargers offensive arsenal is not limited to the screen pass, it's just that it is one of the most effective weapons that they have.
"That is probably the best play that they have out of all of their weapons," said linebacker James Farrior. "They use it very effectively at the right times and we are definitely going to have to pay attention when they try to run those screens. The problem is reading it. They have a lot of different disguises with the screen; they have become creative with getting people the ball so we definitely have to read them."
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has 11 ½ sacks this season, but only two of them have come in the last seven games of the season, following his return from a calf injury.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, though, doesn't think teams are doing anything differently in their approach to stop Woodley.
* "*Sacks are really just that," said Woodley. "They are not a measure of performance for an individual or for a unit for that matter. A lot is dictated by someone's ability to create and get sacks. The speed of which the ball comes out being one of them. There are so many things that are outside the control of a player from that standpoint.
"What we ask from him and what we ask from everybody is to put the pressure and he has provided that. There has been no difference in his performance, whatsoever from my standpoint. Production yes, in terms of sacks, but he is playing well. He's playing at a high level."
Everyone practiced for the Steelers on Thursday, while running back LaDainlian Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates both missed practice for a second day for the Chargers.
Steelers fans coach vote for Tomlin for the NFL Coach of the Year and James Harrison for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on NFL.com.
**Coach Tomlin's Take:
On if weather will be a factor:**
"Weather is not going to be an issue. We are in a divisional round of playoffs. If anybody is concerned about the cold there is a strong chance they're going to go home."
On comparing the film of the Chargers from now than from before:
"They are finding ways to finish games. The film really isn't very different. They've got quality coaches. They got all-star, Pro Bowl caliber players. They are a good team. They've found a way to finish games when their backs against the wall. That's a sign of a good team. We respected these guys the first time we played them. We narrowly escaped with a victory. Really we have the same level of respect for them now as we did then."
On how things change with a one-and-done elimination situation:
"It really doesn't. I have a one-and-done mentality during the regular season. That's just the way we approach this thing. For me it's no different."