SAN DIEGO — And so it begins again.
Just over 24 hours after losing 20-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Norv Turner and the other Chargers coaches began watching film of their next opponent, working to put a new game plan together for their team.
The Chargers will be on the road, facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh. They’re a team that Turner called better and more physical than the teams the Chargers have faced in the previous two weeks, the Ravens and the Bengals.
What makes the game planning even more challenging this time is that Turner will have to find ways to make plays with an offensive line that has once again been taken apart by injuries. Reggie Wells, Louis Vasquez, Nick Hardwick, Rex Hadnot and Kevin Haslam are tentatively slated as the starting offensive line.
Left tackle Mike Harris may be out due to a high ankle sprain.
“Every week it’s a new week,” said Turner. “It’s going to be more challenging this week. As I said, if we’re in there with three new starting offensive linesman and guys that I haven’t met yet, and we’re playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh, it will be a challenge.”
The Steelers have had some injury woes, too, most notably starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury. Though as of Wednesday he was able to participate fully in practice.
Whether it’s Roethlisberger starting or backup quarterback Charlie Batch, Turner said that it’s about preparing for their team and will see where they’re at as the week goes on.
“I heard ‘Big Ben’ is a heck of a guy to bring to the ground,” said second year defensive end Corey Liuget.
As defensive coordinator John Pagano works to develop a plan to halt the Steelers offense, Liuget works on studying the film and watching what the quarterback likes to do, whether it’s Roethlisberger or Batch.
“It’s not much of a difference at all,” Liuget said. “They are who they are. They’re the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re going to run their offense and we just have to go out there and cause havoc and get to their quarterback, hit him and bring him to the ground.”
But no game plan is ever set in stone, and there is no one sign during a game that it’s time to deviate from the plan, explained Chargers backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. “It’s not like you’re forced to do something. It’s just the way the game goes,” Whitehurst said. “Both sides, both teams are going to make adjustments based on what the other team is doing.”
It’s different every week, he added. “Sometimes you stick to it (scripted plays) a little bit tighter than other times…Norv’s been good for a long time, doing what he does (as a play caller); what he thinks, what he feels and information that he’s getting from his other coaches.”
Defensively, safety Corey Lynch, who had eight tackles during the game against the Bengals and one interception, said they have a good understanding of the game plan each week. Something he credits Pagano for.
He’s one of the best ‘D’ coordinators I’ve ever played for,” Lynch said. “The game plan is there. Every week you come to work looking forward to seeing it. It’s not like, ‘Oh, man, this is going to be a tough week, they’re good and we don’t have a good game plan.’ I think he does a phenomenal job.”
When it comes to making in-game adjustments Liuget said they were “great at it,” adding that each time they come off the field they look over the frames of what the offense is doing and huddle up as a defense.
“When it’s something big Coach ‘Pags’ will pull us all together and let us know ‘Hey, we’re doing this…and that different now,’” Liuget said. “So as a defense we definitely come to the sidelines and make adjustments.”
During the game against the Bengals, Lynch said the defense made three or four adjustments “seamlessly” and “easily.” He said that it was because Pagano had them prepared for it during practice. “It’s crazy to me to see the adjustments like we see it in practice. Most of the time you won’t see it in practice and you’ll just have to do it on the fly, but the defense actually sees it in practice and we do it correctly in the game.”
Liuget said the offense makes just as many adjustments each time they come off of the field, too. Whether it’s changing the snap count, “they definitely make adjustments,” he said.
“We’re a team that wants to run the ball,” Turner said of making adjustments. “We’re trying to do everything we can to find a way to generate some first downs and move the ball, and keep our defense off the field.”
For Turner, the team suffers not from a lack of planning or inability to make adjustments, but from a lack of consistency. “We have not been able to move the ball consistently in any quarter,” he said. “And when we can make some plays, we’re able to move the ball and sometimes you’re able to scheme, sometimes guys make plays. But we had too many negative plays that keep us from being a consistent team.”
Turner said the reason for the Steelers’ continued success over the years is their consistency. “We played them in 2008 and I think nine of the same guys are starting so you have great consistency…they all know what each other is doing.”
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