X-Factors For The Chargers Matchup With The Steelers
I understand the sentiment, the season is seemingly going down a bad path and there are many issues with this team. While I agree with the latter to a certain extent, the Los Angeles Chargers still find themselves in a very favorable position. They go into this primetime game sitting at 5-4 and 2-0 in the AFC West with a semi-easy schedule to finish the season off. I’d argue they’re in a better spot than anyone else in their division.
That being said, there are very frustrating issues that this team has that aren’t seeming to go away anytime soon. Let’s get into the x-factors for this game and get into how the Chargers can alleviate some of these self-inflicted issues.
X-Factor 1: Stop Najee Harris
The Chargers find themselves in a very difficult position this week, as of now, they may be without three of their four best defensive linemen. Covid brings a lot of questions and the hope is that Joey Bosa tests negative before the game on Sunday so he can play. If Bosa is out along with a few other defensive linemen, they are in big trouble.
Regardless, Najee Harris has been great this year and currently sits at 6th in the NFL in rush yards. Many people will look to his 3.7 yards per carry and say that he isn’t doing well, but he is a chunk play waiting to happen. The Chargers are one of the teams that the Steelers can take advantage of and consistently get chunk plays on the ground. So how do the Chargers stop this? They consistently run fewer people in the box and dare teams to run, whether it is Ben Roethlisberger or Mason Rudolph, this is one of the teams that you can comfortably stack the box against. I would hope the Chargers are more aggressive this week and run blitz on first down more to get the linebackers down the field faster to create tackles for loss. The Chargers are at their best when they know their opponent has to throw the ball, that is how they can get the Steelers into these obvious situations.
X-factor 2: Control Time Of Possession
While I love the idea of pushing the ball down the field and scoring fast, which they should still try and do, the Chargers need to work on holding onto the ball and not letting their opponent dominate time of possession. It is the main reason why they lost last week, as the Vikings dominated time of possession and wore the Chargers defense out and Justin Herbert didn’t have many opportunities to score more points.
The Chargers are currently 25th in the NFL in time of possession and it has been their main weakness and a big reason why they have lost three of their four previous games. There are many things that come from not having the ball as long as the other team. I did point out that it tires the defense out, but almost more importantly, the opposing offense can’t get into a rhythm.
The defense has a lot to work on and needs to get better at getting off the field on 3rd down and like I previously mentioned they need to create negative plays on early downs to be in a favorable position on 3rd down. While this is a defensive issue mainly, the offense hasn’t done the defense any favors the past few weeks. They need to get into a rhythm from the beginning of the game and string together some drives to give the defense the rest they need.
X-Factor 3: Do What You Do Best
This is a generic thing and can be open to interpretation. What I’m getting at here is going into who the best players are. The Chargers have six players that are elite at their position compared to the rest of the NFL; when I say elite I mean top seven or eight at their respective position. Those six players are Herbert, Bosa, Keenan Allen, Derwin James, Corey Linsley, and yes, Rashawn Slater already. Not many teams have this much talent across the board, the Chargers need to be aggressive and their elite players need to go and win them this game.
I’m not negative towards Joe Lombardi like some are, I think he has done a pretty good job but there is already room for improvement. Let Herbert run the ball a couple of times, get him outside the pocket and let your best player go win a primetime game for you.
Their left side of the offensive line (being center through left tackle) is elite and they need to run the ball at the Steelers behind their elite lineman. Throw a couple of screen passes out there and let Slater and Matt Feiler break open a big play for Austin Ekeler, who you could make a case is elite as well.
Don’t only use Keenan Allen in the short parts of the field and push it down the field to him in the 15-25 yard range that we all know he can take advantage of.
Brandon Staley needs to do whatever he can to free Bosa up for 1 on 1 opportunities that he doesn’t get very often so he can wreck the game.
Lastly, keep letting Derwin do what he does best, and that is wreck the game. I would love to see him blitz more and be in the box on early downs.
There is a lot to digest from that last section, but I follow the sentiment of so many others, I am sick of this talented team losing games that they shouldn’t lose. This is the year to take the AFC West from the Chiefs and I would love to see a sense of urgency and for them to dominate the Steelers who are missing possibly their quarterback and multiple defensive starters including their best player T.J. Watt. Herbert loves primetime games and always does well, I believe this is a get-right game and dominate the Steelers under the bright lights with the whole world watching, let’s go!
Chargers 34, Steelers 20