While the Pittsburgh Steelers had a number of freaky things go against them the last time they faced the Los Angeles Chargers—multiple missed penalties and a friendly-fire collision, which directly led to three touchdowns—the thing that head coach Mike Tomlin pointed to as being different for next week’s matchup was what he’ll have available to him.
During his pre-game press conference yesterday afternoon, he highlighted Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ quarterback since 2004, and regarded as one of the best football minds in the game. While his win-loss record doesn’t always indicate it, he is well-respected for what he can do at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s always a really challenging thing when you’re competing against the likes of Philip Rivers and what he brings”, Tomlin said. Not only in terms of his talents, but his football intellect, and the amount of latitude he’s given at the line of scrimmage”.
“We acknowledge that we’re playing him in his home environment. Recently, we played him in Pittsburgh, so he’s probably going to have added opportunity to infuse his intellect and know-how of the game at the line of scrimmage via communication and so forth”, he added.
Of course, one of the things that Steelers fans will best remember about that matchup was the 14 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown recorded by Keenan Allen, during which he was frequently matched up against inside linebackers such as Jon Bostic and L.J. Fort. Don’t expect to see that so much this time around.
Part of the reason that those matchups occurred so much in that game was because the Steelers were short-handed in the secondary. Not only was Morgan Burnett injured for that game (with Nat Berhe already on the Reserve/Injured List), also not dressing was Cameron Sutton, who was excused from practice that week for a personal matter.
That left the secondary thin, consisting of Joe Haden and Coty Sensabaugh with Mike Hilton in the slot and Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds at safety. Marcus Allen, then a fifth-round rookie, made his NFL debut as the dime back, simply because all else they had was Jordan Dangerfield, Artie Burns, or Brian Allen.
“I know last year when we played him, we were without a number of sub-package defenders, and as the game wore on, he really exploited that”, Tomlin said of the aforementioned circumstances. “It’s good to kind of go in, hopefully, with a full complement of sub-package defenders and guys that are capable of matching up against his many weapons. And he’s got some”.
It’s not currently known if Steven Nelson will be able to play, but especially if he does, the Steelers are much better-positioned to match up with their personnel, both at the second and third levels of the defense, if necessary. That, and avoiding the freaky things from last time around, will be key to turning in a victory on Sunday.