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Scouting Report: Mike Tomlin Breaks Down Chargers Offense

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PITTSBURGH — As he does every week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin broke down the challenges he sees in the Steelers’ opponent.

This week, Tomlin’s club will travel to Los Angeles for a date with the 5-4 Los Angeles Chargers.

“Talking about them starts with [Justin] Herbert, their quarterback,” Tomlin said of the second-year former first-round pick out of Oregon.

Herbert has 2,545 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season, good for sixth in the NFL in both categories.

“Boy, a really impressive talent,” Tomlin said. “You see some things that you knew in Draft preparation when he came out: the arm talent, the strength, the pinpoint accuracy, the ability to change his trajectory and drop the ball over linebackers into the dig area, and so forth. You see the fluid mobility and easy mobility that he displayed at Oregon. He’s 6-foot-6 but he’s an easy mover. They do some things schematically to highlight that, some designed quarterback runs, some pocket movements. Even when they don’t, he has the ability to extend plays with his leg talent. That is challenging and creates some challenges for a defense.”

Herbert’s favorite target is Keenan Allen, who Steelers fans should be quite familiar with. In three career games against Pittsburgh, the 29-year-old Allen has 22 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers’ 2018 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field.

“Have had nothing but respect for Keenan Allen over the years,” Tomlin said. “Enjoyed having an opportunity to spend a week with him a few years back when we coached the Pro Bowl and just to watch his day-to-day work even in that setting. It’s not surprising why he’s been as ridiculously consistent as he’s been over the course of his career. He’s a football lover. He’s a football junkie. He works at it. He talks it, he lives it, and it’s all over his tape.”

Allen has 65 catches for 698 yards and two scores on the season. Right behind him is fifth-year Clemson product Mike Williams, who has 41 grabs for 608 yards and six scores.

“Can’t say enough about Mike Williams and his ability to stretch the field,” Tomlin said. “He’s one of those 15 yards per catch average guys over the course of his career, so that captures your attention.”

Austin Ekeler paces the LA ground game with a 4.7 yards per carry average on 112 touches already this season.

“He’s inside, he’s outside. He’s stronger than you think,” Tomlin said.  “He bounces off of tackles. He’s got leg drive.”

Ekeler also has 39 catches for 340 yards and four touchdowns, and is the Chargers’ third-leading receiver. He is eighth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

“His inclusion in the passing game is another component that really is worrisome,” Tomlin said. “He’s a matchup problem because of the short area quicks. He’s got really good and reliable hands. He’s been a major component of their passing game for a number of years.”

In total, LA ranks 10th in yards per game, but has had a tougher time converting those to points, with a 24.3 points per game mark that is 15th in the NFL. That’s an area the Steelers have excelled, with the team’s 46.2% touchdown allowed rate in the end zone tied for the third-best in pro football.

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