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Chargers, Steelers in rematch of bizarre game

PITTSBURGH -- The finish to the Chargers-Steelers game was strange enough, with the first 11-10 score in NFL history and Troy Polamalu stripped of a last-play defensive touchdown by an officiating error.

This may be even stranger: The Chargers, 4-8 with a month left in the season, are returning to Pittsburgh for a rematch in an AFC divisional playoff game Sunday.

The Steelers were fortunate to win despite getting only a safety and Jeff Reed's three field goals, the last with 11 seconds remaining. The Steelers outgained the Chargers 410-213 as Ben Roethlisberger went 31-of-41 for 308 yards, and held San Diego's Philip Rivers to 159 yards passing, yet never got the ball into the end zone. At least on a play that counted.

"We executed well, we just didn't finish," Ward said. "That's the reason the game was close."

No matter, the Steelers repeated as AFC North champs by winning six of their final seven to finish 12-4; the Chargers, 23-17 overtime winners over the Colts on Saturday, are 9-8 after winning their last five.

Now, the Steelers get a nearly instant replay against the Chargers, and they hope it goes more smoothly than the messed-up replay that helped lead to the Polamalu touchdown reversal. The portion of the play that was in question following a pass and two laterals was not what was reviewed by the replay official.

This should help the Steelers: Roethlisberger practiced Monday for the first time since sustaining a concussion late in the second quarter of a meaningless 31-0 win over Cleveland on Dec. 28. He has had ongoing headaches, but until Monday didn't pass the memory tests given players who receive a concussion; he took three or four such tests last week.

Two years ago, Roethlisberger played perhaps his worst game -- throwing four interceptions in a loss to Oakland -- only a week after getting a concussion. That might be the Steelers' biggest worry this week, how Roethlisberger responds to what he called a "scary" hit against Cleveland.

Driven to the turf by two Browns defenders while delivering a pass, Roethlisberger's head struck the ground whiplash-style, causing him to briefly lose sensation in both arms.

"It was scary," Roethlisberger said, talking for the first time since getting hurt. "I mean, when you can't feel your arms you get kind of scared. They pricked me with a pin and I couldn't feel it. When you see the doctor look at the trainer with that kind of look, it kind of scares you a little bit."

Roethlisberger is certain his third concussion in 30 months won't affect his play against San Diego.

"It's just like when a player comes off knee surgery, or some kind of injury, you can't go out there and play afraid, because that's when you get hurt," Roethlisberger said. "I'm going to go out there and play normal football. If I get hit, I get hit."

The Chargers ranked only 22nd with 28 sacks, but got to Roethlisberger four times. They were limited to one sack Saturday, yet held NFL MVP Peyton Manning to a single touchdown pass.

Since that earlier game, the Chargers are getting the ball more often to Darren Sproles, who had 328 yards rushing, receiving and on kick returns against Indianapolis. He had a single rushing attempt for no yards earlier against Pittsburgh.

"We were aware that he's made more big plays this season than LT (LaDainian Tomlinson)," safety Troy Polamalu said. "He's made a lot of huge plays and we respect that."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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