Below are three takeaways from Wednesday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Derwin James Jr. and Austin Ekeler:
Preparing for two QBs
The Chargers head into Week 11 preparing to face the 5-3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Both the Steelers and Chargers are in a tight race in their respective divisions with every team in the AFC West and North having at least five wins.
The Chargers face a unique challenge after veteran Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week, leaving head coach Brandon Staley and company the task of preparing for both Roethlisberger and backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.
On Wednesday, Staley talked about how the team is approaching that situation.
"You have to prepare for both styles," Staley said. "I feel like you get a strong sense of how they play with Mason because you have last week to go over, and then last year when he was in the game — you have film of him playing in games. Then, you can certainly watch him in the preseason, just to get a feel for if this offense is really changing for him. They're a similar style of players. Mason's a big statured guy. He has a very good arm, has enough mobility, like Ben. I think that we have a good plan for both guys. We're going to have to prepare that way."
Chargers safety Derwin James also weighed in on how he's processing the fact that either one of the Steelers quarterbacks could be on the field come Sunday.
"We have to prepare that he's playing," James said of Roethlisberger. "I mean he's a professional, he could get healthy within the next day or next two days, so we have to prepare like he's still there. Whoever their quarterback is we have to prepare because it's football."
One of the highlights of the Steelers offense is rookie Najee Harris. The former Alabama running back has totaled 963 yards through nine games with six touchdowns.
Staley talked about what makes Harris' game translate so well from college to the pros.
"They really hit on this back," Staley said. "He's a really complete back. He's smooth, he can see, he can run with power, he can catch the football out of the backfield. He's got a physical presence so he's willing in pass protection. He's definitely a strength of their football team and he's one of these young runners that's making a name for himself in the league…he certainly has a great pedigree coming from 'Bama but he's an outstanding young player."
James also gave insight into what he's seen from Harris on film and what the Chargers need to do to contain him on Sunday.
"I like Najee's game," James said. "I feel like he's a big guy, he runs hard, runs strong and I feel like he's going to have a great career in this league…I mean we gotta come with it, every back we play it's a tough challenge to bring them down so like I said, he's another guy that we are going to need everybody around the ball."
Back in primetime
Sunday night marks the second primetime game for the Chargers this season. In their first primetime matchup, the Chargers beat the Las Vegas Raiders, 28-14, in Week 4 on Monday Night Football.
Running back Austin Ekeler called primetime games 'special' and talked about what playing under the bright lights reminds him of.
"We're playing under the lights again which is always a special moment," Ekeler said. "[It] takes you back to the high school days and it's the only game that's on at the time. So as far as outside factors, I would say it's special in that way. Obviously when it comes down to the game it's still the same mentality as any type of game. It's more so just the hype and being able to watch the games leading up to it just going into the week and that day in particular…it just keeps building while you watch the other guys play."
James talked about how the Bolts have a sense of urgency in their locker room to get back in the win column this week.
A big part of winning games in the NFL is winning the turnover battle and when it comes to forcing turnovers, James feels that the defense is due for a breakout game as the Bolts hope to continue their primetime success on Sunday and get to six wins on the year.
"I do feel like we're close," James said. "The operations are there. [Head] coach [Brandon Staley] is doing a great job in putting us in positions. We just have to be there to make the plays. That game is coming where we are going to take over and get takeaways — you know they come in bunches."
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