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5 Questions with Behind The Steel Curtain

Get to know this week’s opponent from those who know them best.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

For this week’s “Questions with the Enemy” post, we reached out to Jeff Hartman of our sister site, Behind The Steel Curtain, to get an inside look at this week’s opponent, the Steelers.

Hartman takes us through what this game could look like without star edge rusher T.J. Watt, how Mike Tomlin continues to win games year-in and year-out, as well as how he’d personally attempt to defend this Chargers offense.

Curious to see what he had to say? Let’s go ahead and jump right in.

1.) There’s a chance the Steelers are without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, both of whom are currently on the NFL’s COVID-19 list. How much of an impact will each of their absences make on their respective sides of the ball? Is all hope lost this week if T.J. Watt also misses the game with an injury?

In my opinion, if Watt misses this game it will have a bigger impact on the team than Roethlisberger or Fitzpatrick missing the game. Minkah Fitzpatrick does a lot, but he hasn’t been creating the turnovers many expected this season. Roethlisberger is better than Mason Rudolph, but Rudolph has proven he can put the Steelers in position to win football games. If Watt doesn’t play the team will be leaning on a combination of Alex Highsmith, second year starter, and Taco Charlton as their primary pass rushers. If the Steelers stand a chance this Sunday night, they need T.J. Watt at least in the lineup.

2.) No matter what this team does from year to year, Mike Tomlin finds a way to put out a winning product. With a current record of 5-3-1, how does Tomlin continue to win games, despite this roster looking like one of his worst teams in recent memory?

Mike Tomlin is a master motivator. What he lacks in time management and other in-game scenarios he makes up for making players rise up and play above their current level. The Steelers have kept Tomlin around based on the fact he is capable of getting the absolute most out of his team, no matter what. When he has had those 8-8 seasons, the roster he has had those years would be a 6-10 or worse record with lesser coaches.

3.) If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about attacking this Steelers defense? Which players/matchups would you attempt to exploit?

I have said this week after week, and it continues to ring true. If you run the football on the Steelers, you will be able to do whatever you want with this defense. Opening up the run leaves offenses with everything available to them. The Steelers surrendered over 180 yards last week vs. the Detroit Lions on the just Quarters 2 and 3. Their run defense has been in shambles since they lost Tyson Alualu to a broken leg in Week 2, and Stephon Tuitt remains on IR. If the Chargers can run the ball, they’ll have no issues moving the ball however they choose.

4.) Similar question as above but flip sides of the ball. If you were defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, how would you go about defending the Steelers offense? Which players should the Bolts worry about the most?

It is tough to answer this question considering the Steelers currently have Mason Rudolph as their quarterback. However, if Ben Roethlisberger is somehow able to return to the lineup, it changes a lot of things. Nonetheless, assuming Roethlisberger doesn’t play this Sunday night, the key to stopping the Steelers is to force the ball into Rudolph’s hands. The offense has a say in this by getting a lead, but if the Chargers can eliminate the growing Steelers’ running game they will be in position to win. The Steelers’ running game was the laughing stock of the league in 2020, and started off horribly in 2021. However, the offensive line is starting to gel, and Najee Harris is as advertised. That doesn’t change how stopping the run is paramount in stopping the Steelers.

5.) Give us a final score prediction and a few sentences on how you see this game shaking out on Sunday night.

First, I’m a homer. So, don’t be shocked when I pick the Steelers. However, as I said about Mike Tomlin earlier in this Q&A, he is a master motivator. This game is in Tomlin’s wheel house. On the road, everything is going against them, this is a game where Tomlin’s teams tend to rise up. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. A last-second Chris Boswell field goal wins it for the Steelers.

Steelers 23 - Chargers 21