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Steelers, Chargers looking to rebound after tough weeks

The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off a loss to the underdog Minnesota Vikings last week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a tie against the winless Detroit Lions that felt like a loss.

Both are looking to bounce back from what they considered to be sub-par performances when they meet Sunday night in Inglewood, Calif., in a game with major AFC playoff implications.

At 5-4, Los Angeles trails Kansas City by a half-game in the West, where all four teams are either 6-4, 5-4 or 5-5. Pittsburgh (5-3-1) is a half-game behind Baltimore in the North with Cincinnati (5-4) and Cleveland (5-5) also within striking distance.

And both may be short-handed due to injuries and COVID-19.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he’s preparing as though Mason Rudolph will make his second start at quarterback in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who sat out last week because of the coronavirus.

Rudolph went 30 of 50 for 242 yards against Detroit with a touchdown and an interception.

“He gave us a chance to win, but that’s not the first opportunity for him,” Tomlin said. “This guy has been at it a while, and so we expected him to play well, and we thought he gave us a chance to win.”

Roethlisberger, fully vaccinated, came down with COVID-19 on Nov. 13. He will need to test negative twice within a 24-hour span and display no symptoms for 48 hours before he’s allowed to return.

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Pittsburgh is dealing with injuries on defense. Linebacker T.J. Watt (hip/knee) and cornerback Joe Haden (foot) didn’t practice on Wednesday. Watt left the Detroit game in the third quarter, but Tomlin said he’d play if at all possible.

“I’ll always leave the light on for T.J. Watt. The things he does routinely aren’t done routinely by others,” Tomlin said.

Meanwhile, the Chargers placed defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery on their COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Tillery tested positive and Bosa is a close contact. Because Bosa is unvaccinated, he must quarantine for five days and test negative by 4 p.m. Saturday to be eligible for the game.

The absence of Bosa, who’s considered one of the league’s top pass rushers, could hamper a defense that encountered difficulty with Minnesota’s versatile attack last week. Los Angeles coughed up 381 total yards and was on the field for more than 36 minutes.

The Chargers’ offense managed just 253 total yards but has the capability to light up any scoreboard with Justin Herbert throwing to the likes of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

“I feel like we’ve beat some good teams, we’ve lost to some good teams,” said center Corey Linsley. “I feel like to keep growing, to keep getting better, to lessen the inconsistencies, we just need to keep pushing through.”

Pittsburgh owns a 24-10 lead in the all-time series, including the postseason and a 24-17 victory in the teams’ last meeting on Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. Los Angeles is just 2-3 at home and can expect a hostile crowd in Sofi Stadium because Steelers fans travel as well as any team in the league.

–Field Level Media