Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
Absence of veteran cornerback killed Steelers in third-down situations.
Filling the hole left by Pittsburgh Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor, who missed Sunday's 34-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers with an ankle injury, was a "painful exercise," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly wrote Monday.
Taylor, who missed his first game since 2004, was replaced by a bevy of inexperienced Steelers defensive backs, including second-year player Curtis Brown, who was the main target of Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers.
Overall, Brown was targeted six times and allowed six catches for 84 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Alexander late in the first half before getting benched in the fourth quarter for Josh Victorian, who later gave up a touchdown.
Also picked on in the loss was Cortez Allen, another second-year guy, who was thrown at many times. The biggest difference in the game, says Kaboly, was third-down situations.
Most of Rivers’ success on third downs came on the same route: the out pattern. Of Rivers’ 41 attempts, 14 were out patterns, seven of which resulted in first downs. Rivers finished 9 of 14 for 67 yards when he targeted an out-cutting receiver.
The Steelers (7-6) will be without Taylor for at least another week -- this week, the Steelers visit the Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET on CBS). However, the timetable for Taylor's return is still unclear, as initial reports said he'd miss three to six weeks.
Currently, Pittsburgh holds the final AFC Wild Card spot, but can easily lose it with a loss.