He made his 43rd start for the Chargers in the season opener. During their third possession, Joe Barksdale suffered a knee injury that marked the beginning of the end of his time with the team.
On Monday, the Chargers released Barksdale, who returned to action in Week 7 but was unable to reclaim his starting spot at right tackle.
“It’s really not a good time to do something like this,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “At this point in time, we thought it was best for Joe and it was best for the Chargers.”
Barksdale, 30, signed as a free agent before the 2015 season. When sound, he was the Chargers’ starting right tackle for every game in which he played through the opener in September.
After Barksdale was injured, Sam Tevi took over and has remained in the starting lineup.
Before the Chargers played Sunday at Pittsburgh, Barksdale had appeared in five consecutive games as a substitute, his snap counts continuing to increase.
He dressed for practice Friday and appeared to be in good spirits as he walked with his teammates into the stadium at Orange Coast College, even fist-bumping a reporter as he passed.
But Barksdale did not participate in the workout, instead spending much of the session speaking with trainers.
The Chargers later announced that Barksdale sat out because of a “personal matter” and listed him as questionable for the game against the Steelers. A few hours later, he was downgraded to out.
Lynn said he spoke with Barksdale upon returning from Pittsburgh on Monday.
“We had a good conversation,” Lynn said. “Joe’s in a good place. We’re in a good place. We wish him well.”
Barksdale declined an interview request but thanked the Chargers and their fans in a Twitter post. “I will truly miss everyone,” he wrote, “but look forward to what the future has in store for me.”
The Chargers promoted wide receiver Dylan Cantrell from the practice squad to take Barksdale’s roster spot.
Gordon waiting to go
Lynn said that the Chargers will take Melvin Gordon’s situation this week “day by day” and didn’t rule out the running back would play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at StubHub Center.
Gordon sat out Sunday’s game because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. The injury is not considered to be a long-term one.
“His chances [of playing] are better this week than they were last week,” Lynn said. “I don’t want to put him out there too soon because we have a lot of football left.”
The Chargers would like to have Gordon back for their Dec. 13 AFC West showdown at Kansas City.
They struggled trying to run the ball in the first half against the Steelers. Through two quarters, the Chargers had two yards in nine carries.
They made some schematic adjustments in the second half and also were sparked by rookie Justin Jackson, who carried eight times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Austin Ekeler started in Gordon’s place, finishing with 21 yards in 13 carries. He also caught five passes for 22 yards.
“That defense was playing on our side of the line of scrimmage,” Lynn said, referring to the first half. “They were pressuring us. They were knocking us back. Austin, in some respects, had no chance.”
Lynn said he believed that Ekeler was “wearing down a little bit” because of his extensive use on special teams.
Because of that, he said that Jackson could play more against the Bengals and mentioned Detrez Newsome, another rookie running back, as a candidate to get more playing time.
The much anticipated battle of brothers — Chargers fullback Derek Watt against Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt — did not really materialize.
T.J. played 52 of 63 defensive snaps, but Derek played only two of 63 offensive snaps, his role greatly reduced by the Chargers’ inability to run the ball in the first half.
Derek did put a left shoulder chip block on T.J. on the second play of the game, a run by Austin Ekeler for no gain. But that was the extent of the contact between the two younger brothers of Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt.
Derek and T.J. met on the field after the game and exchanged autographed jerseys.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is expected to interview this week for the coaching job at Georgia Tech.
Whisenhunt played for the Yellow Jackets in the early 1980s. One of his teammates was Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech’s athletic director.
“I know there’s a lot of interest,” Lynn said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s his job to turn down because he’s a heck of a football coach.”