San Diego Stumble: A Week 14 Analysis

Of course the Steelers lost an embarrassing game to the Chargers at home coming off of last week’s huge win over Baltimore.

Of course they did.

I just don’t know what it is about Mike Tomlin’s coaching style that causes this team to keep losing dumb games to bad teams, but it’s starting to drive me a little crazy.

With last week’s win over the Ravens, the team was sitting pretty at 7-5. A win here, combined with Cincinnati’s loss, would’ve made a playoff spot a near certainty.

Instead, they’ll have to keep fighting for the remainder of the season, and while their odds of making the postseason are still good as long as they beat the Bengals two weeks from now, it’s a shame they couldn’t have locked up some security here.

Now, there were plenty of reasons for this team to have issues in this game; Ben clearly was a little rusty (especially in the first half), San Diego’s defense is actually decent, and Ike Taylor’s absence has really affected the secondary.

But to lose by double digits to an under .500 team? That’s still pretty unacceptable.

The offensive line REALLY worries me, since it seemed like they took a big step back since even last game. They only allowed two sacks, but it seems like they completely lost the ability to run block. I like that they feel comfortable enough to move Legursky and Pouncey between spots interchangeably, but is that a sustainable strategy for the rest of the year? I just don’t know.

Similarly, what happened to the running game? I know they got behind fairly quickly, but it seems like Todd Haley abandoned it pretty early on. He only gave Dwyer eight attempts in the game, and with Ben’s clear early struggles, it might’ve made more sense to try and do a better job establishing the run game, even if it only yielded a few yards at a time.

In the first half, it really was a game of field position, as the two sides punted back and forth on Pittsburgh’s side of the field, and a greater commitment to the run might’ve helped ease Ben into things while the game stayed close.

I do appreciate that San Diego’s 4th ranked run defense is more of a challenge than some of the Steelers’ recent opponents, but still, to run for just 69 yards against a team that normally allows close to 100 is a little concerning.

And then, of course, there’s Ben. It was inevitable he’d be rusty, but he just seemed jittery in the pocket in the first half, and although he seemed more comfortable in the second half, he definitely wasn’t himself. It was clear he wouldn’t be back to his old self right away, but it didn’t help that we was so shaky early on.

But the defense was the real culprit. Maybe the unit hasn’t lived up to their number one ranking, but it has still been the strength of the team. To allow Phillip Rivers to look like his old self is a little incredible, and I have to believe that Taylor’s absence was the culprit.

Danario Alexander ran wild on the team, and as much as I like Cortez Allen, the ripple effect that’s occurred from moving him into the starting line up has caused a real problem in the secondary.

Taylor’s not due back for a couple weeks, and if this problem continues, these next few weeks may be rough.

This team’s going to need to find at least two more wins over the next three games, particularly in two weeks against the Bengals, and that might prove more difficult than anyone expected.

I’d like to believe that this loss was just a minor setback due to a letdown after the big Baltimore win rather than a sign of doom for the rest of the year, but we won’t know for sure until next week.

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