The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the San Diego Chargers Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium and both teams will looking to improve to 3-2 on the season. The Steelers last won in the state of California in 2005 and that was also a Monday night game against the Chargers.
Below are seven key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do Monday night in order to come away with a road win against the Chargers.
Run Right All Night, Alright? – Heading into Monday night’s game against the Steelers, the Chargers defense is ranked last in the league in yards per rush (5.51) allowed up the middle and to the opposing offense’s right. In other words, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell should be fed the football quite a bit Monday night in an effort to not only take pressure off of backup quarterback Mike Vick, but to also control the clock and keep Philip Rivers off of the field as much as possible. There’s no reason to think that Bell won’t have a great night on the ground.
Now Mercy For The Replacements – The Chargers offensive line has been a mess for quite a while and that includes last season. Injuries have resulted in them already using three different starting combinations in their first four games and we could see a fourth one Monday night. The Chargers running game hasn’t been good at all so far this season but when they have had success, it’s been to their left side. In fact, they are averaging over 7 yards per carry on the 20 runs that have gone to left tackle and left guard. As far as the Chargers pass protection goes, Rivers has already been sacked 12 times so far this season. Expect Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward to have a monster game Monday night.
Get Backs On Backers – Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley would be wise to get Bell lined up on either of the Chargers inside linebackers as often as possible. Both Donald Butler and Manti Te’o have given up quite a few completions so far this season so look for Bell to line up in the slot with DeAngelo Williams also being on the field at the same time. Both Steelers running backs can cause havoc out of the backfield in the Steelers passing game and they need to be used in this game.
Hey Diddle Diddle, Let Vick Attack The Middle – As you could clearly see in the Vick passing chart from the game against the Baltimore Ravens, the veteran backup never really attacked the middle of the field in that contest. While I doubt he will do it much Monday night, Vick should have a few opportunities in the game to go deep down the middle of the field against the Chargers defense. So far this season, opposing quarterbacks have completed 4 of 5 throws against the Chargers to the deep middle portion of the field for an average gain of 21.60 yards. Look for Vick to take shots to tight end Heath Miller deep and down the seam a few times Monday night. A deep post shot or two to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey should also be there in this game as well.
Attack For YAC – In the game against the Ravens, Vick did a horrible job when it came to getting the ball to his eligibles out in space and that led to the team having season-low YAC (yards after catch). Wide receiver Antonio Brown is at his best when delivered the football out in space so look for that to be a priority in the passing game Monday night.
Be Keen For Keenan – Wide receiver Keenan Allen, as you would expect, leads the Chargers in both receptions and receiving yardage headed into Monday night. Being as the Chargers second-best wide receiver, Stevie Johnson, won’t be playing Monday night due to an injury, look for Rivers to focus in on Allen in the passing game even more. If the Steelers defense can limit Allen’s production the same way that the Cincinnati Bengals did back in Week 2, they should win the game.
Two Charger Tights – The Chargers get tight end Antonio Gates back Monday night now that he has served his four-game suspension. Being as San Diego’s receiving corps are very banged up entering this game, I suspect we’ll see their offense use quite a few two tight end personnel groupings featuring Gates and Ladarius Green. The Steelers defense has a recent history of struggling against opposing offenses that feature two good tight ends and it won’t help Monday night that they’ll be without inside linebacker Ryan Shazier once again. In addition to targeting Allen Monday night, expect Rivers to get the ball out quick to both Gates and Green throughout the evening. The Steelers defense hasn’t tackled well so far this season and the Chargers two tight ends will certainly be tough to get on the ground.