By Jeremy Hritz
The Pittsburgh Steelers finally put a performance together last Sunday night worthy of praise, and one that provided a glimmer of hope that if this team gets healthy and plays mistake-free football, they can make a postseason run. This is not to say that the Cincinnati Bengals game was without flaws, but the ability of the Steelers defense to quash any semblance of effectiveness on the Bengals’ offensive side of the ball answered several lingering questions about the team’s ability to stop their opponents.
While the turnovers and penalties must cease in order for the Steelers to be a contender, the stellar game by Jonathan Dwyer and the offensive line, and the success of the dime defense in rendering Andy Dalton and A.J. Green powerless show that the Steelers can make some things happen in 2012. Factor in that they were playing a divisional game away against a team that could not afford to go 1-3 in the AFC North on Sunday night, and the win is that much more impressive.
Ike Taylor had a performance that, if he extends over the next couple of games, can erase the nightmarish early season he has had. Casey Hampton, while he made a nice play in the backfield, still continues to get blown off of the ball, and Steve McLendon is still wasting his talents on the sideline. Not to mention Mike Wallace had a bad case of the drops, though he still caught eight balls.
And now with an even 3-3 record, the Washington Redskins are in town, and the Steelers are looking to get above .500 for the first time this season.
The Steelers Will Win If…
The defense builds on its performance against Cincinnati, and the offensive line takes another step and makes it two consecutive solid games.
While Robert Griffin III has had a great year, he is leading an offense that is only converting 31% of its third downs. What’s more is the Redskins leading receiver, tight end Fred Davis, is now out for the season with an injury. Now short a weapon, Griffin will have to expand his talents to his receivers who will also be without the services of Pierre Garcon. While Griffin has been solid passing the football, with the ailments of his receivers, look for Dick LeBeau to make him win the game with his arm, something that Steelers will be looking to force him to do as they will make stopping the Redskins prolific running game the priority. If the Steelers can have another excellent performance like they had last week, they will frustrate Griffin into having the first horrible game of his career. The greatest cause for concern? Griffin’s legs. Steelers defenders must play with a keen awareness on Sunday to make sure he does not blow the game open with a huge run.
The Steelers offensive line played its first admirable game of the season last week, as Willie Colon was a mauler, and Mike Adams showed much promise. Their play kept Ben Roethlisberger clean for the most part and led the way to producing a running game that was physical and effective. With Maurkice Pouncey returning this week, the offensive line could have an even better game against the Redskins. While it may be difficult running against the seventh ranked rushing defense, throwing should not be an issue as the Redskins are ranked dead-last in passing defense. Expect big numbers and lots of points from the Steelers passing game, especially if Wallace can hold on to the football.
The Redskins Will Win If…
They can run the football well and control the clock.
The Redskins defense will have a difficult time slowing down the Steelers passing attack, and their best opportunity at winning this game will come from an outstanding effort from their rushing efforts. With the first overall ranked rushing offense led by Alfred Morris and Griffin, if they can chunk yards and translate them into points, it will keep the Steelers offense off of the field and keep them from scoring points. There is a good chance this could happen as the Steelers run defense has been susceptible this season. If Morris and Griffin get rolling, they could sneak out of Pittsburgh with a win.
While Griffin has been a great story this season in the NFL, he is still a rookie quarterback that has not yet proven that he can win a game with his arm. LeBeau will make it so that if the Redskins are to win, it will have to be on the arm of Griffin. It’s not going to happen, and the Steelers will force Griffin into multiple mistakes. Roethlisberger has another big game, as does Wallace, and the defense shows up for a second week in a row.
Steelers 33 Redskins 13