SAN DIEGO -- Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman wasn't pleased to read general manager A.J. Smith's comment that the team's play at times this season has been "soft and bewildered."
The Chargers lost 38-28 at Pittsburgh on Sunday night, falling behind 28-0 and allowing the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers to pile up 497 yards of offense. San Diego is 2-2 entering its bye week and already is two games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.
On Wednesday, Smith was quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune as saying, "Everything is wrong with it right now. I'm not the least bit happy in a lot of areas. I've seen us be tough and physical to soft and bewildered."
Merriman at first declined to comment, which would have been a first in his five-year NFL career.
"I don't know too much of that. That's an opinion of a person, and it's not needed," Merriman said. "We know that we have to play better. We met for an extra hour and a half as a defense as a whole to discuss what we need to do and things we need to do to get better. And we're going to make adjustments in this locker room as far as players and our attitudes and getting after people a little more. But all that extra (stuff) is not needed at all."
Merriman said it would be easier to absorb such talk if it came from a teammate.
"The only opinions that matter to me are the ones in this locker room," he said. "Anything else, it doesn't matter."
Merriman returned to the lineup this season after knee surgery sidelined him for the final 15 games of 2008, plus two playoff games. He has been in and out of the lineup this season as he works to regain full strength, and he has been affected by a groin injury he said he got from overcompensating for the knee injury.
The Chargers clearly missed Merriman's spark last season, when they finished 8-8 and won the AFC West in large part because of the Broncos' historic collapse. After beating the Indianapolis Colts at home in the wild-card round, the Chargers were exposed by the more physical Steelers in losing a divisional-round playoff game in Pittsburgh.
Merriman had 39.5 sacks his first three seasons; he's still waiting for his first sack this season.
Merriman said the Chargers are lacking an attitude.
"When you play with an attitude, you want to finish plays," he said. "Playing with just a nasty attitude, that's something that has to be gained around here. And it's not happening right now -- but I could say that as a player because I'm going on the field. We say that in the locker room as players. We say that to each other."
Nicknamed "Lights Out" because of his hard hits, Merriman said he's willing to shoulder the responsibility of the Chargers playing with more attitude and aggression.
"I don't mind being at fault for that," he said. "I've talked to several players on defense, and we all met, like I said, an extra hour, hour and a half, after the time we were supposed to be here, to get that fixed. We know that as players, we know that in the locker room and hopefully that we're going to keep talking among players and keep it here."
Smith didn't return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Asked about Smith's comments, Chargers coach Norv Turner said: "I expressed my thoughts on Monday about that game. We're getting ready for Denver. We're addressing the things we need to do to play better against Denver."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press