Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger were both first round picks in the 2004 NFL Draft. Both are still playing. Both are still compiling video game-caliber numbers.
They don’t go against one another very often but from across the country the two possible Hall of Famers have kept tabs on one another’s careers and developed a mutual respect.
“He’s been a heck of a player for them for a long time,” said Rivers of Roethlisberger.
“He’s an MVP-caliber player and he’s playing at an MVP caliber right now,” said Roethlisberger of Rivers.
The other members of that ’04 QB class are Eli Manning and J.P. Losman (forgot about the 22nd overall pick to Buffalo, huh?) so an evaluation of that will wait for another day. Right now, on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, it’s time for a little R and R.
These two stalwarts have started more than 200 games for the same franchise. They both sit in the top-10 in NFL history in passing yards and passing touchdowns. They’re even about the same height, weight, and age.
And neither guy is slowing down in his “old” age. Both QBs are sitting in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns again in 2018 and they have both of their teams squarely in the playoff hunt. But as Rivers will tell you it’s not about a quarterback vs. quarterback matchup. He’s more concerned with the Steelers defense. With that in mind let’s take a look at three key matchups for Prime Time in Pittsburgh:
Rivers vs. Roethlisberger
All due respect, Philip, but you cannot avoid this. If one quarterback plays substantially better than the other in this game it’s probably going to be the difference between a win and a loss. Ben has more passing yards but he’s also chucking it up 43 times a game while Rivers is only throwing 31 times a game. However, Rivers has been more efficient with two more touchdowns and six fewer interceptions.
Of course Rivers is not going to have Melvin Gordon at Heinz Field so the Chargers running game will probably not be as effective as it’s been for most of 2018 and that likely means we’re gonna see a shootout between a pair of the most prolific passers in NFL history. The guy that makes fewer mistakes and more big plays will be the one that comes out on top.
Chargers DE Joey Bosa vs. Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Again, these guys are not on the field at the same time but they’ll have their own little battle going on. Two of the best young pass rushers in the game will have the chance to put pressure on the Hall of Fame-caliber QBs. The Steelers are among the most blitz-happy teams in the league and that shows with their NFL-leading 39 sacks. The Chargers just got Bosa back and he recorded his first two sacks of the year last week. If he’s going well the Bolts don’t have to blitz much, although they have had success bringing safety Derwin James. The pass rusher that has the most disruptive night will be celebrating a win.
Heinz Field vs. OSHA
Heinz Field is simply a different beast. It’s crazy. Since it opened in 2001 the Steelers have won 72% of their games along the three rivers. During that time only the Patriots have a better home record and that might have something to do with the fact that time frame spans the entire Tom Brady era. Now add in night games on national TV and Heinz Field is even more intimidating. Pittsburgh has won 76% of its prime time home games, trailing only the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field. If the Steelers get another boost from their home crowd they’re going to be awfully tough to beat.
The Chargers still don’t have a signature win this year (no, in Seattle does not count). Until they get one I’m not ready to say they’re going to win a prime time matchup with one of the best teams in the league.
Final score: Steelers 37, Chargers 33