The Pittsburgh Steelers had a dominant second half performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. The question becomes – will we see this continue when they face the Washington Redskins at Heinz Field? The opponents could not be any different. Cincinnati features a west coast styled passing game (getting the ball out quickly), a power running game, with an amazing weapon at wide receiver in A.J. Green. The Bengals’ defense is solid at each level, especially up front. Meanwhile, Washington has a dazzling young quarterback in Robert Griffin III, who is reminiscent of a young Michael Vick, except RGIII can read defenses better. The Redskins, as is customary with a Mike Shanahan-coached team, predominantly utilizes a zone blocking scheme. The Redskins have been decimated by injuries (and suspensions) to their starters. Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, and Tanard Jackson will miss this week’s contest while Brandon Meriweather and London Fletcher (who has played 231 consecutive games) are questionable for the game. Washington’s defense is porous and should pose significant opportunities, particularly in the passing game, for Pittsburgh to take advantage.
So…how will this game shake out?
Ten Fearless Predictions
1. Ben Roethlisberger will torture the Redskins’ secondary with the short passing game, but expect at least two deep shots. (Is it too much to ask Mike Wallace to actually HOLD ON TO THE BALL?)
2. Robert Griffin III’s ability to run off the edge will be relatively well-harnessed by Pittsburgh’s outside linebackers and defensive ends. Griffin will get 25-50 yards on the ground, but he won’t be galloping down the sideline for any 76-yard TD runs. Pittsburgh will rotate their defensive linemen to stay fresh to combat Griffin’s natural athletic ability. (The forecast for 48 degrees and rain may help slow him down a bit, too)
3. Washington’s play action pass will burn the Steelers secondary for a deep TD pass. Due to the commitment of bottling up the RGIII and the running game, the Shanahan boys will try to take advantage in their playcalling, and will do so successfully.
4. Time of possession will greatly favor the Steelers. Pittsburgh dominates this category nearly every week due to their methodical offense. Combine that with the Redskins’ quick-strike capability, and it’s a recipe for a 40 minute to 20 minute edge. Ok…so this is a rather safe prediction.
5. Pittsburgh’s offensive line will keep Big Ben clean. The O-line had a great overall performance last week. With Washington’s limited ability to rush the passer, Starks-Colon-Pouncey–Foster-Adams will have a great day of both pass and run blocking.
6. Pittsburgh’s defensive front seven has shown an alarming trend of giving up chunks of rushing yards to set up easy third downs. Alfred Morris will continue this streak with 15-20 carries for nearly 100 yards.
7. Even if Rashard Mendenhall returns this week, Jonathan Dwyer gets another 15+ carries thanks to last week’s game-clinching runs.
8. Lawrence Timmons will serve as a “spy” for RGIII at many times throughout the game. Timmons possesses the best speed / explosive running and tackling to try and keep track of Griffin.
9. Griffin will be forced to make some questionable throws, especially late in the game, that will result in him not achieving his usual passing accuracy (70%).
10. Steelers 34, Redskins 21. Dick LeBeau’s defenses are 13-1 against rookie QBs since he returned to Pittsburgh as the defensive coordinator in 2004 (the lone loss was to Baltimore and Troy Smith in 2007). Expect some new wrinkles to welcome Mr. Griffin to the NFL.
FYI – yours truly will be in the stands to watch this game, be sure to tune in to my game recap for a unique take!
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.