Pittsburgh @ LA Chargers
-Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been activated off of the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
-Steelers WR Chase Claypool (toe) will play after missing week 10.
-Steelers LB TJ Watt (hip/knee) was injured last week and will miss this week. Watt is one of the better edge rushers in all of football, the pass rush takes a bit step back without him.
-Steelers CB Joe Haden (foot) was injured last week and will miss this week. Haden was having a mediocre season, the defensive backfield takes a slight hit without him, but nothing too crazy.
-Steelers DT Isaiahh Loudermilk (groin) will miss this game, but he's replaceable.
-Chargers DT Jerry Tillery tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Tillery is vaccinated and could potentially play depending on if he can produce two negative tests. He's a bad player, though.
-Chargers DE Joey Bosa is a close contact in Tillery. Bosa is unvaccinated, but could play. He, quite literally, is the entire Chargers defensive line.
-Chargers DT Christian Covington is also on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He is also #bad and could still play.
-Chargers LB Drue Tranquill is on the COVID-19 list. He's an above average linebacker.
-Chargers S Alohi Gilman (quad) is doubtful after missing practice all week. The Chargers will be fine without him.
-Chargers DT Linval Joseph (shoulder) is doubtful after missing practice all week.
Betting: The line has since shifted to 5. Get your damn bets in early, folks. The public is backing the Chargers, with 58% of cash and 67% of tickets on LA
When the Steelers have the ball:
Starting a washed QB isn't fun -- the Steelers are 22nd in offensive DVOA and 23rd in EPA/play. Of 37 qualifiers, Big Ben is 34th in PFF passing grades (56.5) while completing 65.6% of his passes (2% below expectation) and gaining 6.6 yards per attempt. His average depth of target is 7.1, 34th lowest in the league, and his average time to throw of 2.3 seconds is fastest in the league. A real "fuck this" style of playing. It's hard to blame Ben either -- none of the members of the offensive line are grading well in pass protection outside of RG Trai Turner. He's under pressure 21.3% of the time, which is lowest in the league, which is a strong indicator that getting rid of the ball is working wonders in terms of limiting pressure. The Steelers top receivers by projected targets: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, RB Najee Harris, and TE Pat Freiermuth. Both Johnson and Claypool have established themselves as solid receivers, while rookie Freiermuth has come on strong as the Steelers primary tight end (we can excuse his rough game last week, Mason Rudloph was throwing the football). Harris, also a rookie, is the workhorse back. The Chargers defense is 18th in DVOA and 23rd in EPA/play. As you can see above, they have a COVID problem along the defensive line that is horrid outside of Joey Bosa. It's possible the Chargers might not have a single starter in the front 7 with a PFF grade above 65. The corners are all average at best, but Derwin James and Nasir Adderly are a solid safety tandem.
When the Chargers have the ball:
The Chargers offense sits at 6th in DOVA and 8th in EPA/play. Justin Herbert sits at 8th in PFF passing grades (83.9) while completing 65.4% of his passes (1.6% below expectation) and gaining 7.2 yards per attempt. Herbert's game has had a surprising dink and dunk feel to it -- his aDOT of 7.5 is firmly in Big Ben territory, and 51.3% of his passes have traveled less than 10 yards, 3rd highest rate in the league. He plays behind an offensive line that is essentially impenetrable on the left side and very weak on the right. If lineman were considered for offensive rookie of the year, LT Rashawn Slater would be in the conversation. Herbert's top receivers by projected targets: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, RB Austin Ekeler, and TE Jared Cook. Allen runs about 61% of his routes out of the slot and handles a lot of the shorter routes while Williams plays on the outside. Ekeler will handle the majority of RB carries. The Steelers defense is 14th in DVOA and 12th in EPA/play, though they take a massive hit without TJ Watt. Since the Steelers traded Melvin Ingram to the Chiefs at the trade deadline, that leaves Cameron Heyward as the lone source of a pass rush. Heyward is an absolute animal -- he doesn't quite get the recognition he deserves because he plays the same position as Aaron Donald and on the same team as Watt, but he's generating pressure more frequently than Watt and is a beast in the run game. DT Chris Wormley is also playing well against the run, but the rest of the front 7 has been weak. Each member of the secondary (including Minkah Fitzpatrick) has had a rough season, with the exception of CB James Pierre. The Steelers are the 4th best team in short passing DVOA, however, so they do match up well against the Chargers preference to throw shorter passes.