Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has never faced the Steelers. After Thursday night, he may wish he still hadn’t.
Five years ago, when current Titans assistant head coach Dick LeBeau served as the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, the Steelers dealt with a mobile quarterback by hitting him, often.
“Our goal was to be physical with him at any opportunity we had, and I think it affected his play,” Steeler safety Ryan Clark said while appearing on ESPN in May 2013. “We were focused on being physical with him. When they ran the read-option, he was the guy we were focused on. [We] had James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on him at every chance and every opportunity that we got, just so he knew every play, he was gonna be hit.”
The game included Griffin flipping the ball to receiver Joshua Morgan and running a pass route. Clark took advantage of the opportunity, blasting the pass-thrower-turned-potential-pass-catcher with a legal (but massive) hit.
“Anytime you get a shot at a quarterback you want to take it,” said FOX analyst Brian Billick at the time.
The Steelers may use the same approach on Thursday night with Mariota, making him pay every time he leaves the pocket. No, it doesn’t get discussed as openly as it did before the Saints’ bounty scandal. But it remains a very real dynamic in football, especially when a defense known for toughness faces a quarterback who willingly abandons the protections that apply when he’s in the pocket.