Of all the quarterbacks that the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced this year, short of Alex Smith with the Washington Football Team, none even remotely compare with the experience of the player next on their schedule, that being Philip Rivers, the longtime quarterback of the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, who is finding success in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Rivers has his Colts squad at 10-4 and riding a three-game winning streak, very much in contention for the AFC South title, and also vying for a Wildcard spot as well, should they be unable to overtake the Tennessee Titans for first place.
How do the Steelers defend against him? They know that they’re not going to get a chance to fool him through scheme very much. So according to safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, it’s just going to have to be about execution.
“It’s very hard. He’s been in the league almost as long as I’ve been alive. It’s just kind of crazy”, he told reporters on Thursday. “There’s not too many things he hasn’t seen before, so our goal isn’t really to outsmart him. We just have to execute well, do what we do well. We’re gonna try to move around and do things to trick him, but our goal isn’t to try and outsmart somebody who’s been doing it for that long”.
In other words, they don’t anticipate being able to force him into too many mistakes through exotic coverages and things of that nature, though of course you have to change up what you’re showing the opposing quarterback under any circumstances and give him something to process.
The best way to defend a savvy veteran quarterback—nevermind the son of a coach—is to get pressure on him early and often, but that won’t be easy against the Colts, who have one of the better offensive lines in the entirety of the NFL. Rivers has only been sacked 14 times this year, and thrown just nine interceptions.
To make matters worse, they suddenly have a running game, too, with rookie back Jonathan Taylor finding success in recent weeks. Since their bye week, they have rushed for 100 or more yards in seven of their eight games played, including over 200 yards two weeks ago against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Indianapolis ranks 11th in the NFL in rushing attempts as well, so if the Steelers aren’t going to stop the run, they might not even have to worry themselves too much about Rivers. Getting Vince Williams back will hopefully help with that—and also get some pressure in his face.