By BOB LABRIOLA
There is the mandated video exchange and scouting reports, and all teams send advance scouts to the games of their upcoming opponent just in case something extra can be learned from a seat in the press box.
In a league where the New England Patriots were fined cash and a draft choice for going too far to obtain advance information, it would seem that a previous game against an opponent would be worth its weight in gold.
"I don't subscribe to that theory," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Just because that last game unfolded the way it did, that's no indication that's how this game is going to unfold."
So much for the popular notion that Steelers-Chargers on Nov. 16 will have an impact on Steelers-Chargers on Jan. 11.
"We are different in some ways than the last time we played them," said Tomlin. "We're playing with people we didn't play with last time. This is the first time around for Heath Miller and this is the first time around for some cornerbacks. They're playing with some people who didn't play or had different roles the last time we played them. It gives you a little window in terms of the physical matchup because you had a chance to watch guys compete against one another first-hand, but it's no indication of how this game is going to unfold. We don't take it as such."
The way the regular season game between these teams unfolded was as the first 11-10 final in NFL history, and that's a lot of football history. But despite the final numbers, in a lot of ways, the game was one the Steelers' best offensive performances of the season.
Twenty-four first downs; a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs. Willie Parker rushed for 115 yards and averaged 4.3 per carry; Ben Roethlisberger passed for 308 and completed 75 percent.
But 13 penalties against the Steelers – seven on the offense, three of which were for holding, including one for holding on Sean McHugh that took a touchdown off the board in the fourth quarter – plus a goal-line stand by the Chargers kept the Steelers out of the end zone.
"There is no hocus-pocus or secret formula to getting the ball into the end zone," said Tomlin. "We have to execute better, we have to put our guys into better position to take advantage of the field position. Those are some of the things that we are working on as a staff right now and those are some of the things that we will work on later in the week with our players. It is that simple.
"We won't do anything differently this week than we've done in the other weeks in preparation for the game. We just have to let it all come together better than the last time we played them because I think we were 0-for-3 in goal-to-go situations in that game. That's life, but thankfully we were able to win."
As the No. 2 seed in these AFC playoffs, the Steelers were off last weekend while the Chargers defeated the Indianapolis Colts in overtime in an AFC Wild Card Game. The winner of this Steelers-Chargers rematch earns a berth in the AFC Championship Game, just one step removed from Super Bowl XLIII.
"We realize that if we are going to be as good as we are capable of being, specifically if we are going to win this weekend," said Tomlin, "the Steelers cannot beat the Steelers."