Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Steelers D vs. L.T.

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PITTSBURGH -- Forget the numbers.

When you ask players and coaches around the NFL to name the best all-around running back, LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers is usually the first name that comes to mind.

So how will the NFL's best back hold up against the league's No. 1 defense?

Steel Curtain vs. Top RBs
The Steelers No. 1-rated defense will try to contain Chargers' running back LaDainian Tomlinson Sunday. Here is how Pittsburgh has fared against top RBs this year:
PlayerTeamDateAtt/YdsResult
Jamal Lewis Browns 9/14 19/38 W 10-6
Brian Westbrook* Eagles 9/21 5/12 L 15-6
Brandon Jacobs Giants 10/26 18/47 L 21-14
Clinton Portis Redskins 11/3 13/51 W 23-6
*Injured during game

The answer to that question likely will determine Sunday's high-profile matchup between the Chargers (4-5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).

"LaDainian Tomlinson is arguably the best in the world at what he does," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "[He's good at] not only running it, but catching it, throwing it -- he's capable of doing a lot of things and has and will for that football team. It's another good featured-runner challenge for our defense, and we've had some of late."

Pittsburgh has fared well against some of the top tailbacks in the NFL this year. The Steelers bottled up the NFL's second leading rusher, Clinton Portis of the Washington Redskins, Nov. 3 and held him to just 51 yards on 13 carries. Pittsburgh also slowed bruising New York Giants tailback Brandon Jacobs to just 47 yards on 18 carries Oct. 26.

In fact, no player has rushed for more than 100 yards on the Steelers this season.

But if anyone is capable of breaking that streak, it's Tomlinson. The Chargers' Pro Bowler seems to be gaining traction after a slow start, averaging 91.5 yards rushing the past two games. If Tomlinson is able to get similar numbers Sunday, it could spell trouble for the Steelers at home.

"We got to prepare ourselves and respect this process and respect what he's capable of," Tomlin said of Tomlinson. "I'm sure we will."