The Los Angeles Chargers will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park with another starter sidelined as they try to avoid their fourth loss in five games.
Center Mike Pouncey will miss the rest of the season because of a neck injury that will require surgery, coach Anthony Lynn said.
“We’re going to miss him, his leadership off and on the field,” Lynn said. “I can’t say if it’s career-ending or not. He’s been playing football for a long time. It’s probably something that has been bothering him for a while and he’s just been playing through it.”
Pouncey was selected to the Pro Bowl for the 2018 season, his first with the Chargers after spending the first seven seasons of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins where he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Dan Feeney will replace Pouncey at center after starting the past 30 regular-season games at left guard. Forrest Lamp will replace Feeney at left guard, making the first start of his three-season NFL career.
Lynn described the 6-foot, 4-inch, 310-pound Feeney as “a heck of a guard, but I think he’s in more of his natural position” now.
Quarterback Philip Rivers expressed confidence that Feeney will “do a solid job” at center.
The Chargers chose Lamp in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp in 2017 and was limited to 17 plays in two games in 2018.
Lamp has played all five games this season, playing a combined seven plays the first three games, 17 in the 30-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins Sept. 29 and a career-high 45 in last Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the previously winless Denver Broncos.
“He was a little rusty, but he’s going to get a lot of opportunities to work that rust off,” Lynn said. “I have no doubt that his confidence will grow and that Forrest will be a good fit.”
Two opening day starters are on reserve/injured and two others are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game — defensive end Melvin Ingram and tight end Hunter Henry. Ingram missed last Sunday’s game because of a hamstring injury. Henry hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury in the season-opening 30-24 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts Sept. 8.
A player listed as questionable means it is uncertain whether he will play.
The Chargers (2-3) made two additions to their roster since last Sunday’s game — signing center-guard Ryan Groy to provide more depth on the offensive line in Pouncey’s absence and promoting Jason Moore from the practice squad because fellow receiver Andre Patton is doubtful because of a quadricep injury.
Groy played 55 games for the Buffalo Bills from 2016-18, making 17 starts, primarily at center.
Moore is an undrafted rookie from the University of Findlay, an NCAA Division II school in Findlay, Ohio. He made two catches for 21 yards in two preseason games with the Chargers this summer. Tight end Stephen Anderson was waived to make room for Moore on the roster.
The 1-4 Steelers are off to their worst start since 2013, when they were also 1-4. They have not started a season 1-5 (or worse) since 1988 when they began the season 1-6. Three of their losses have been by four points or less. They only victory was over the winless Cincinnati Bengals.
Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges is expected to start at quarterback for Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph will miss the game because of a concussion after starting the past three games in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a season-ending injury to his right elbow in the 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sept. 15 that required surgery.
The Samford University alumnus made his NFL debut in last Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens, completing seven of nine passes for 68 yards. The Steelers drove 87 yards for a touchdown on 10 plays on his first drive.
Hodges began the regular season on the practice squad, then was promoted to the 53-man roster following Roethlisberger’s injury.
Hodges is the career Football Championship Subdivision passage yardage leader with 14,584, breaking the previous record of 14,496 held by Steve McNair. Hodges received the 2018 Walter Payton Award as the top FCS offensive player.
The game will be Pittsburgh’s first in the Los Angeles area since Nov. 27, 1994 when they defeated the Los Angeles Raiders 21-3 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The game will be the Chargers 11th annual “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” game, part of a leaguewide fundraising effort directed toward support of three screenable cancers — breast, colorectal and cervical.
Fans attending the game will receive pink ribbons upon entry from members of the Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity of women which coordinates and participates in special events throughout October to raise funds for breast cancer education and increase awareness about the importance of early detection.
All fans will also receive pink rally towels and light-up wristbands. Specialty pink merchandise and concession items will be available for purchase.
At halftime, more than 50 breast cancer survivors will be on the field for a special halftime performance featuring the Charger Girls and members of ZTA holding large pink stars and ribbons. Breast cancer survivor Tarsha Rodgers will sing “God Bless America” during the third quarter.
Each NFL team has designated a home game in October as their “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” game.
In “Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” games players are allowed to wear cleats, shoelaces and wristbands in any color representing the type of cancer awareness they support or have been impacted by.
NFL-issued Crucial Catch gameday apparel will feature a multi-colored logo representing all cancers.
“Crucial Catch: Intercept Cancer” games are played with game balls with the Crucial Catch logo.
Multi-colored equipment for players includes helmet decals, captains’ patches, gloves, sideline caps, sideline towels and quarterback towels.
There will be multi-colored ribbon pins for coaches and teams. Game officials will wear multi-colored caps and pins.
There will be multi-colored goal post wraps, multi-colored stencils on the field.
Game-worn Crucial Catch merchandise and footballs will be autographed and auctioned at NFL Auction, nfl.com/auction.
The NFL does not profit from the sale or auction of Crucial Catch merchandise, a league official said.
Charitable contributions are donated to the American Cancer Society to support its Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program, a community-based grant program providing grant opportunities to community health centers to support increased access to low- or no-cost cancer screenings in underserved communities.
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