Los Angeles Chargers Defense Key Against Pittsburgh Steelers Despite Injuries

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Chargers Defense
CARSON, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Defensive backs Roderic Teamer #36 and Rayshawn Jenkins #23 of the Los Angeles Chargers talk during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Dignity Health Sports Park on September 22, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Chargers have a Sunday Night Football matchup coming up against the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4). They come into this game with a 2-3 record, coming off a surprising loss to the Denver Broncos. There are a lot of things that could be pointed out as to what went wrong in that Broncos loss – such as an unusually poor performance from Philip Rivers. But the defense also let the team down. To be fair, the defense is currently decimated by injuries (as is pretty much the entire team). But the Chargers defense will have to perform better regardless.

Los Angeles Chargers Defense Must Get Past Injuries

Recent Defensive Struggles

Going into this past Sunday’s game against the Broncos, one would’ve thought that was a team they had no business losing to; especially since that team was 0-4. But the Chargers defense got off to a bad start. And though they recovered, they came up short when it mattered most.

Firstly, they got torn up on the ground by Phillip Lindsay and gave him his first 100-yard game of the season. That’s not good, considering Lindsay only had 15 carries. They also allowed a 70-yard touchdown from Courtland Sutton which was the result of some missed tackles and poor angles. After giving up an early 14-0 lead, they did better and even got an interception. But then down 17-10 late in the game, they were unable to stop the Broncos from moving the ball late and surrendered a field goal, which effectively ended the game.

And this isn’t the only game the defense has had some miscues on lately. They also got torn up in the second half against the Houston Texans, allowing a long touchdown pass to a tight end (Jordan Akins). They also briefly allowed the Miami Dolphins to actually take a lead early in the game. Fortunately, even a defense on life support is good enough when one is playing the Dolphins. Point is, the Chargers defense needs to do better. Even with all the injuries, at least some of the backups need to step up and have a “next man up” mentality.

Possibly Ideal Matchup

Unfortunately for the Steelers, they have an injury issue of their own that could affect the game – at quarterback. Mason Rudolph’s status is up in the air after the concussion he suffered on that vicious hit against the Baltimore Ravens. If he can’t play, undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges will go instead. With that in mind, one would think it’d be an easier matchup even with a bunch of starters out. The defensive line is still relatively healthy – Melvin Ingram is the only injured starter. They’ve still got Joey Bosa to harass whoever the quarterback is.

If it’s Rudolph, then that bodes better for the Steelers. However, the Steelers don’t utilize the deep ball nearly as much with Rudolph as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger. That would seem to call for making sure the shorter range zone and the run are stuffed. Either way, they’ll probably be leaning on James Conner a bit. But both quarterbacks should be a little easier to plan for than DeShaun Watson or Joe Flacco. Though Flacco is hardly a superstar, he can still throw a deep ball – and that did burn the Chargers at least once.

Where the Injuries Come Into Play

The secondary is the spot where the injuries are the worst right now. Adrian Phillips and Derwin James have already been on injured reserve. But now Nasir Adderley is a question mark as well. Not that he’s been out there much, because for some reason they’ve been starting Roderic Teamer instead which hasn’t been working well.

Casey Hayward looks like he’ll make it after having a back injury, but they also cut Trevor Williams and thereby got rid of some depth. Even with his injury problems, Williams would be a better bet than Brandon Facyson, who hasn’t been out there as much since Michael Davis returned but has still been a bit of a liability. One thing that’s been happening often is players getting injured mid-game and returning the following week. But their absence during the rest of that one game is felt. That would certainly be the case at the cornerback position, as well as the linebacker corps with Denzel Perryman being injury-prone.

As previously stated, the other question mark this week is Melvin Ingram. While that might be manageable since Bosa is the more critical of the two pass rushers, that would still leave a star player off the field. Isaac Rochell would be the likely replacement if Ingram can’t play.

Last Word

The biggest problem on the injury side of things is the secondary since almost all the safeties are injured and the cornerback depth is shaky. One injury to Hayward or Davis and Facyson is out there again as one of the two main corners. The backups will have to play better both for this next game and in the future until the starters return. But the linebacker corps has been underwhelming even without many injuries this season, so they need to step up too. The defense can’t let the Steelers control the game with the ground. That’s where they’re most likely to lean – especially if Rudolph is out.

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