There are a lot of great young quarterbacks in the league right now. Some of them are already having a lot of success, like Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Others are still working to find their way in terms of converting talent into wins.
But some of the most feared quarterbacks by defensive coordinators are still the old guard. Guys who are still playing into their late 30s and even into their 40s have lasted this long because they have a lot more than just talent. They also have a fundamental understanding of the game.
They can get you to show your hand and adjust the play accordingly to give themselves the matchup to beat whatever it is you were trying to do. It’s very hard to disguise yourself well enough to force this group of quarterbacks into making mistakes.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is in that group, and while his record might not have always shown it (frankly, he hasn’t always had a very good team around him, or a good coaching staff for that matter), one thing he has always been able to do is get the edge over the defense, something Pittsburgh Steelers veteran cornerback Joe Haden is quite aware of.
“He’s very, very smart”, he said of Rivers this past week. “He knows what you’re gonna be in. He’s gonna get the ball out of his hands very, very fast. I think he’s just a vet, he’s been in the game a long time, he’s seen a lot, so we can’t just stand stagnant and show him what we’re in. Kind of try to move around, not letting him know exactly what our coverage is”.
That was one of the biggest issues that the Steelers defense had against Rivers in their loss to the Chargers last year. While they had some freaky things go against them that helped turn the tables, much of the rest of it was just about Rivers reading the defense and making adjustments to exploit their weak points.
Like having relatively slow-footed inside linebackers in coverage against one of the best wide receivers out of the slot in the game in Keenan Allen.
This defense very much remembers what happened last year. Even newcomers Minkah Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush know what happened, because they watched the team from the 2018 season. They saw how Rivers outmaneuvered them time and again and kept drives moving.
The Steelers believe they have a better plan in place to prevent that from happening this year, and some of those new faces will be a big part of that. But it isn’t the first time they thought they’ve had it covered against a quarterback like Rivers only to watch him pick them apart once again.