If this were 3 or 4 years ago, a match-up between Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers would have been billed as a battle of elite quarterbacks. But now, only one of them fits in that category. And it ain’t Rivers.
Despite being chosen ahead of Roethlisberger in the 2004 draft class, the two quarterback’s careers have gone in opposite directions. Rivers started out strong, and many felt that he was the best quarterback among the top 3 quarterbacks taken that year (Eli Manning, Rivers, and Roethlisberger). But as their careers have progressed, both Roethlisberger and Manning have two Super Bowl rings, while Rivers has rarely even made the playoffs.
These days, Rivers is more likely to be compared to Brandon Weeden, or Sam Bradford, or Ryan Tannehill. He’s thrown for 18 touchdowns this season, but he’s also thrown 15 interceptions. More importantly, his San Diego Chargers (4-8) are a perennial under-achieving team, and they’re in the midst of a 4-game losing streak.
But before we take the Chargers too lightly, it’s worth noting that they just barely lost to both the Ravens and the Bengals. The Bengals only won by a touchdown, and Baltimore only managed to win by a field goal.
Fortunately for the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin made an important announcement this week. He announced that Big Ben will be the starting quarterback on Sunday, after missing the past 3 games with an injury. Roethlisberger’s return greatly increases the Steelers’ chances of making a strong playoff run.
Another change that we’ll have to watch is how Jonathan Dwyer does as the team’s “workhorse” running back. Tomlin has made it clear to offensive coordinator Todd Haley that he doesn’t like the “running back by committee” approach that Haley had been using. Tomlin prefers to appoint one running back as the workhorse, and then run him until the wheels fall off.
I like the way that Jonathan Dwyer runs downhill. However, I don’t like his speed. I don’t think that he has the same ability to get to the outside and break a long run that Mendenhall has. But as Tomlin points out, Dwyer has been the most consistent performer among the Steelers running backs, so he’s earned this opportunity.
With Big Ben back, I think the Steelers have a very good chance of beating the Chargers, particularly since the game is being played in Pittsburgh. The Chargers have never beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the regular season. Never! And I doubt that trend will end on Sunday.
I predict a Steelers win, with a final score of 27 – 10.