You would think I should have been a Steelers fan due to growing up with two die-hard Steelers’ fans as parents. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are all die-hard fans of the Black and Gold. I was born and raised in San Diego, and despite the efforts of my parents to make me a Steelers fan, I became a fan of my home team. With many relatives still in the Pittsburgh area, I have been lucky enough to attend two Chargers versus Steelers game at Heinz Field. This past Monday, I finally got a change to see a game at Qualcomm Stadium. I attended all three games with my father. My experiences at both stadiums were so different, yet the same, in many ways.
My first game in Pittsburgh was a cold one. It was 25 degrees and snowing. Heinz field is surrounded by the three rivers and it is windy. I am a San Diego girl and I learned that wind chill is a real thing. I have never been so cold in my entire life. Monday’s game in San Diego was a complete opposite. It was hot! By the end of the game it was still 80 degrees out. A happy medium would have been nice, but I think the hot weather was a little more tolerable.
While I did not tailgate for Monday’s game in San Diego, I have tailgated there in the past. Tailgating is great at Qualcomm. The stadium parking is large enough and the food is great. San Diego cooks up carne asada, pollo asada, burgers, dogs and there are also a lot of local brews. Surprisingly, I tailgated at both games I attended in Pittsburgh. Heinz Field is downtown and tailgating does not happen in the stadium parking lot. Steelers fans buy parking spots at local businesses in the City and tailgate there. They cook up kielbasa, pierogies, chipped ham and burgers. Contrary to popular belief, Steeler fans do not drink Iron City Beer and stick to Yuengling Lager and Rolling Rock. I was proud to be the only Chargers fans sporting my gear while tailgating in Pittsburgh.
After attending a newer stadium at Heinz Field and then going to Qualcomm, I can see why the Chargers are seeking a new stadium. Qualcomm Stadium is old and out-dated. Heinz Field has a beautiful score board. The Heinz ketchup bottles really do pour when the Steelers are in the red zone. I admit that it was very cool to see for the first time. Touchdowns are even crazier with all the digital screens. They try to do what they can at the Q with the fire and fireworks. It definitely gets the fans excited. A new stadium is needed and I just hope that they can somehow make it work in San Diego.
My biggest disappointment at the game in San Diego was the number of Steelers fans that were in attendance. I expected about 40% of the fans to be Steelers fans. Steelers fans are everywhere and they travel to see their team play. Truth is, what better city is there to visit to see your team play on the road than San Diego? It’s a harsh reality that Chargers fans and season ticket holders sell their tickets to opposing fans to make a profit. I was right about the 40 percent, but it was the Chargers fans that were 40 percent of the attendance. That is just shameful. Chargers fans should be embarrassed.
When I attended the two games in Pittsburgh, I only saw about hundred other Chargers fans in the stadium. That is FAR less than one percent! It was Black and Gold from one end of the stadium to the other end. The Steelers fans are incredibly loyal to their team. They chant together, cheer together and get sloppy drunk together. It was great and a little disheartening to see as a Chargers fan. These fans walk down the walkway at Heinz Field all chanting “Here we go Steelers, here we go!” It’s intimidating as fan of the opposing team. At Qualcomm Stadium, I heard that chant from Steelers fans, but Chargers fans responded with “Here we go Chargers, here we go!”.
I am very proud of the Chargers fans who attended the game. We cheered our hearts out and tried to be louder than the Steelers fans. Despite all the terrible towels waving in the Stadium, the fans were gracious. They booed the Chargers when they came out, but settled down when the game started. The Steelers fans were gracious in Pittsburgh, also. I would like to see how Steelers fans respond after a loss, but I would assume that they are still gracious in defeat.
My experience at both Heinz Field and Qualcomm were great. I would have preferred to see the Chargers’ home games be like Steelers’ home games. Attending any NFL game is an amazing experience. I think every Bolts fan should attend a game at an opposing stadium. It is an experience you will never forget as a fan.
Thank you for reading.
The NFL is full of the most elite football players from all over the world with incredible athletic abilities; Odell Beckham Jr.’s three finger catch says enough. With the top athletes facing off every week, a team knows there is one thing they need to do in order to outperform their opponent; win the turnover battle every single game.
In 2013, teams that win the turnover battle have a 72-17 record; going 810-220-2 from 2008 to 2012. According to Steve Mariucci, an NFL Network analyst and former head coach, “It’s all about the number of possessions”, and he’s right. Ultimately, turnovers dictate the amount of possessions a team has and the number of scoring opportunities.
For the Chargers, winning the battle this season has landed them a 6-0 record. Even games ending in turnover ties has given them two more wins. Basically, the Chargers success thus far has been from limiting giveaways and forcing the takeaways.
Since week one against the Arizona Cardinals, the Chargers have had a total of 12 turnovers while their opponents have had 13. Currently, San Diego ranks 13th in the NFL in turnover margin per game, for a turnover differential of 1. In addition, they rank 6th in team fumbles and fumbles lost with 11 fumbles and only 3 lost. Since Mike McCoy took over the head coach position, he has reiterated how important it is to limit turnovers and force them. In the five-game win streak earlier this year, the Chargers had seven takeaways and only one giveaway. Unfortunately, that record was snapped during the three-game losing streak; turning the ball over seven times and not a single takeaway.
Since 2010, the Chargers have only had one season with a positive turnover differential. Even making it to the postseason last year, the Chargers ended with a -4 differential. It was Tom Telesco’s responsibility to add play makers to the defensive unit. Brandon Flowers was a free agent signee in the offseason and has accrued three interceptions this year so far. Before the season ending shoulder injury to rookie cornerback Jason Verrett, he had one interception and ranked 10th-best cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Even Corey Liuget has added to the equation with two forced fumbles; ranking him 23rd in the league. At this time, the Chargers rank 9th in over team defense. They will need to hold this, if not improve, in order for a potential postseason appearance.
In order for the Chargers to advance their record and earn a spot in the playoffs, the team has to win the turnover battle every single time; there’s absolutely no way around it. Back in 2012, three of the top four teams that won the battle in the AFC went onto the playoffs. Heading into the final five games of the season, the Chargers are set to face off against the league’s top teams. Of those five teams, three rank better than San Diego in team turnover differential; the New England Patriots ranking 2nd among all teams. If that isn’t intimidating enough, of the five quarterbacks the defense has to play, four rank higher than Philip Rivers in touchdown-to-interceptions ratio; 3.4 total combined against Rivers’ 2.4.
For the remainder of the season, the offense needs to limit their mistakes and the defensive needs to make game changing plays. The winner of the turnover battle will win football games every time. We all know Rivers does the unthinkable in December, he is the NFL’s third highest-rated passer in December/January (99.0) with a 71-to-22 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but will his success continue? Stay tuned Charger fans for the next five weeks.