No drama – Schottenheimer simply stated who will start this week for this 3-11 team.">
No drama – Schottenheimer simply stated who will start this week for this 3-11 team.">

Chargers look for answers

The San Diego Chargers head into Pittsburgh to face the Steelers this week with one thing on their mind. Evaluations. With two simple soft spoken words on Monday, Marty Schottenheimer declared his intent. <br><br> "Drew Brees," Schottenheimer said in a whisper.<br><br> No drama – Schottenheimer simply stated who will start this week for this 3-11 team.

Let's be clear: the Chargers have junked the rest of this disappointing season to get a read on quarterback Drew Brees.

But as it plays the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field, will the Chargers will be able to accomplish that?

Brees (nine touchdown passes, 13 interceptions) is the starter, for only the second time in seven games. So at least the player the Chargers need to know the most about is taking the snaps. But it's what is in front of Brees that might cloud the organization's thinking now, and into the future.

Whatever Brees, who's 1-8 this year, can do to resurrect his standing with the Chargers will be difficult to do if he's on his back. And for him to land there on Sunday isn't farfetched.

The Chargers' offensive line was hit by injuries early in the year, in the middle of the year and late in the year. The latest to go down is rookie tackle Courtney VanBuren. Van Buren had not only been forced into the lineup, but he played both sides at tackle in last Sunday's loss to the Packers.

Van Buren, who just underwent a knee scope and is out for the year, will stand on the sidelines next to Vaughn Parker, Bob Hallen, and Toniu Fonoti. And they'll likely be joined by opening day starting center such Jason Ball.

Right guard Kelvin Garmon is the only player to open the year in the starting lineup who's a slam dunk to start against the Steelers' No. 9 ranked defense. The Chargers' fingers are crossed they get tackles Solomon Page (ankle) and Damion McIntosh (ankle) back.

Which gets us back to Brees. How are the Chargers supposed to get a good read on this kid if he's playing behind a line mostly seen in August -- or the second-day of a two-a-day in training camp? Will their thinking be clouded because Brees is running for his life? Or, might he get hit early and be gun-shy the rest of what promises to be a chilly, gray afternoon?

Might the Chargers end up looking at the quarterback they don't want to look at -- Doug Flutie -- if Brees can't finish the game.

Look, Brees will start and could still be around at the end. But whether he's starting for San Diego this time next year remains to be seen. He needs a good game Sunday, and he needs another solid showing in the season finale against the AFC West rival wearing the eye patch.

If the Steelers exploit San Diego's thin offensive line on Sunday, Chargers fans may be covering both eyes.

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