Schottenheimer not apologizing for approach

Give San Diego Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer credit for sticking to his runs - or should it be guns? If his gameplan doesn't work, at least he will have gone down his way.

The Chargers have set their sights on getting right against the world champions. The Pittsburgh Steelers arrive Sunday night at Qualcomm Stadium, with the Chargers looking to make a statement that they really do belong among the AFC's elite teams.

More importantly, they are looking at finally put Sunday's disappointing loss behind them. It was a devastating defeat that in some ways is still penetrating the team's locker room, although many of the players say that isn't the case.

But after leading the majority of the game, the Chargers were clipped by the Ravens at the end. And coach Marty Schottenheimer has come under unprecedented criticism for playing too conservative, trying to milk 13 first-half points into a road victory while passing the ball but eight times in the final 30 minutes.

Again, the players and coaches stress that once a game is done, they don't think about it once midnight the following Monday arrives -- that's one of Schottenheimer's steadfast rules.

But someone should tell Schottenheimer, as he seemed motivated to defend himself once again, even as the week reached its midway point.

That begs this question: will the Chargers be ready for the challenge the Steelers will present if they still have their heads in Baltimore?

"The one thing you know about his football teams is that they will play hard, they will be physical and they will be sound," Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher said. "They are football teams that will not beat themselves."

Without being specifically asked, Schottenheimer didn't apologize for how he coaches. One wonders if he is still trying to sell the players on that as well.

"I find it interesting the dialogue about the conservative nature of what we do," Schottenheimer said. "My personal feeling is I think it is more about the style. "Apparently some aren't pleased with the style. I've coached for a long time and won a few games and I've never gotten a single style point. It's all about winning football games. And that's the substance of what we do: wins, losses. That's the way we approach it, that is the way we have always approached it. Winning is the key."

Especially this year for Schottenheimer, who is on the hot seat in sunny San Diego. Schottenheimer's overall mark since coming to San Diego is 35-33.

Schottenheimer and general manager A. J. Smith, it must be noted, have strictly a business relationship. And that relationship could become further strained if the Chargers' season goes sideways, especially at such an early juncture.

Team president Dean Spanos said he expects the Chargers to go deep in the playoffs. If so, they must win games like Sunday's against the Steelers.

That's not saying Sunday is a must-win game. But it wouldn't be overstating the fact that the team is desperate for a win even after prevailing in two of its first three games.

Schottenheimer knows it. And he knows he'll never change his approach -- he'll go down or up doing it his way.

"We are playing a football team that is coming off a very disappointing loss, with high expectations," added Cowher. "I think we have tremendous respect for their team and the type of game it's going to be. I think it's going to be a very physical football game with a team that likes to run the football in them and a team that likes to run the ball in us."

Oddly, the coach who does it the same way -- Cowher, who at age 28 got his first NFL coaching job from Schottenheimer -- is wearing a Super Bowl ring.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories