--Antonio Gates exploded for nine catches, 124 yards and two touchdowns. The 124 yards marked Gates' highest total since midway through the 2005 season. Gates' first score, a 3-yard grab on third down, represented San Diego's first passing touchdown in its last 12 trips into the red zone.
--RG Louis Vasquez returned to the starting lineup and provided a huge upgrade over fill-in Brandyn Dombrowski. He handled himself well against an aggressive front despite the fact that the Chargers were forced to become one-dimensional after falling behind 28-0. The rookie finished the game without a penalty or a sack allowed and reported no setbacks to his injured knee after the game.
--Jacob Hester reminded Chargers fans why the team traded up for him in the 2008 draft; in addition to his ability in the backfield, Hester is a special-teams dynamo. He cemented that reputation in the third quarter on Sunday when he held up Steelers PR Stefan Logan, ripped the ball from him and returned it 41-yards for a touchdown. The score cut Pittsburgh's lead to 28-14 and sparked the Bolts' late rally.
What Didn't Work
DL Alfonso Boone
--Antonio Cromartie suffered through his worst outing of the season, drawing three penalties (one was declined) and routinely getting lost in coverage. After the game, Cromartie implied via Twitter the reason for his poor showing for the Chargers' heavy use of a zone defense. Funny, Quentin Jammer played in the same scheme and looked just fine doing so.
--As a whole, San Diego's defense could not get off the field. The Steelers converted 9-of-13 chances on third or fourth down (69 percent) and held the ball more than twice as long as the Chargers (40:20 to 19:40). Statistics like those help to explain how LaDainian Tomlinson was held under 10 carries in a regular season game for the first time in more than five seasons.
The Chargers head into a much-needed bye week with several players on the mend. Among the wounded are LT (ankle), Shawne Merriman (groin), Shaun Phillips (calf), Castillo (arm), Johnson (groin), Jacques Cesaire (calf), Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle), Stephen Cooper (knee), Scott Mruczkowski (knee), Malcom Floyd (shoulder) and Kris Wilson (wrist).
The good news is all of these players are expected to be available when the Chargers host the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football on Oct. 19. The only players expected to miss that game are Jamal Williams, who is out for the season with an arm injury, and Nick Hardwick, who will miss at least six more weeks after ankle surgery.
The Monday night game could be a crucial showdown given San Diego's early-season struggles and Denver's 4-0 start. If the Broncos lose to the New England Patriots in Week 5, the Chargers will have a chance to pull within a half game of Denver with a win in Week 6.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.