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Steelers’ defensive struggles vs. the Chargers were as much about scheme as execution

The Pittsburgh Steelers failed on multiple levels, but the defensive game plan was a huge issue.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the Week 13 showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers with a Top 10 defense, and an opportunity to prove themselves capable on the national stage against a high-powered offense.

What ensued was a blown 16-point lead, and there is no need to re-hash all of the missed opportunities which led to Pittsburgh’s ultimate defeat in the game. However, while the players on the field have to make the physical plays, there are situations when the scheme is almost as guilty as the execution.

This game would be one of those games.

Keith Butler’s game plan against the Chargers’ most lethal receiving threat, Keenan Allen, was questionable at best. Butler continued to deploy zone coverage schemes which resulted in a linebacker covering the slot receiver. Who was the slot receiver? Keenan Allen.

As any smart quarterback would do, when Philip Rivers saw Allen with a linebacker over top of him, he threw it to him time and time again. How often? Just check out the stats below:

L.J. Fort was the man who was in charge of trying to cover Allen more often than not, and he did the best compared to his teammates, but another head-scratching moment was on arguably the most important play of the game, when Fort was off the field and Jon Bostic was covering Allen in the slot.

Just look at the play, and tell me Rivers doesn’t know exactly where he is going with the ball before the ball is even snapped.

Can the Week 13 loss be chalked up solely to Butler’s poor defensive play calling? Of course not. The ill-timed interception and missed wide open would-be touchdown by Ben Roethlisberger didn’t help, nor did the offense completely shutting down for the vast majority of the second half.

However, when you continue to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, well Einstein dubbed that the definition of insanity.

The Steelers have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, and everyone needs to improve. From the coaching staff down to the players executing on the field. Because when you have games against the Patriots and Saints looming, you better be at your best. If nothing changes, the upcoming game against the Raiders might be a tough test for this Pittsburgh team.