By David Todd
All the hype coming into this one was about the Redskins sensational rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (and the Steelers 1934 throwback uniforms). Last week I wrote about Dick LeBeau and what the Steelers might do to slow him and the Redskins offense down. Mission accomplished. No doubt RGIII was hurt by drops from his receivers, but the Steelers held him largely in-check while also slowing down the Redskins league-leading running game. Offensively the Steelers were successful moving the ball against a weak Skins defense. It was an all-around dominating performance, for the second week in a row, and a well-deserved 27-12 win.
Ryan Clark left the game in the second half with what was termed a concussion. LaMarr Woodley strained his right hamstring, the recurrence of a previous injury, and Jon Dwyer injured his right quad on his last carry of the day.
*Ben Roethlisberger continues to play quarterback at incredibly high level. His decision-making has been exceptional and he amazes with his ability to keep plays alive. His pump fake may be the best in the game and is rarely discussed. He led the offense to scores on its first four possessions, jumping out to a 20-6 halftime lead and finished with three TDs, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 121.0. Last week I said Ben would be squarely in the MVP conversation if the Steelers has a better record. A win this Sunday will put him front-and-center.
*Jon Dwyer ran for 107 yards on 17 carries becoming the first Steelers back to have back-to-back 100 yards games since Willie Parker in 2008. Dwyer showed an ability to gain yardage after contact and stiff-armed London Fletcher on one play, leading to a big gain. His longest run was over thirty yards for the second week in a row.
*The Steelers offensive line had its best effort of the season and appears to be a much-improved unit. They opened big holes early in the game as the Steelers were able to move the ball on the ground, finishing the game with 140 yards rushing, 5.2 yard/att. The line also provided Ben with plenty of time in the pocket. In fact, the Skins only sack was on an end-around where Emmanuel Sanders was looking to throw.
*Chris Rainey took a direct snap around right end for 19 yards. The blocking was excellent and Ben did a great job of selling a bad snap.
*The Steelers receiving corp continues to get open and make plays and this week the tight ends/fullbacks were rewarded with the three short touchdown throws. Mike Wallace moved past last week’s drops with seven receptions and was again Ben’s favorite target.
*The offense got the ball on the Washington 41, up 20-6 with 1:23 left in the first half and an opportunity to put the game away. Instead, they went three-and-out when Chris Rainey missed a hole on first down and Ben overthrow Manny Sanders after doing a nice job eluding the rush on second.
*Jon Dwyer was stuffed on the goal line on two different drives. The first time from the one, the second time from the two when it looked like he was going to be able to walk in.
*Manny Sanders had a bad drop on 3-and-6 from the Steelers 36 with about ten minutes to go. Sanders had running room in front of him and a catch would have allowed the offense to kill at least a few more minutes of clock.
*The Steelers held RGIII to a season-low passer rating of 72.8 (previous low of 82.9), less the 50% completion percentage (16/34) and eight yards rushing on six attempts (1.3 yd/att.). Griffin came in to the game third in the league in passer rating, first in completion percentage and first in rushing yds/att. The Skins were RG 3-and-out on their first series and never seemed to get untracked.
*The defense contained the Skins league-leading running game, which came in averaging 178 yards/gm, to 86 yards and a long run of 12 yards.
*The Steelers, who have had trouble getting off the field on third down, held Washington to 3/12, 25% (though the Skins did convert 2/3 fourth downs).
*Ike Taylor did a very nice job recovering on a gadget pass to RGIII and drawing a pass interference penalty.
*While only generating one sack (by Larry Foote), the defense did an excellent job of hurrying Griffin, particularly in the second half. He rarely had time to sit in the pocket and scan the field and the DBs did a good job of closing on quick-hitters.
*Washington had receivers run open many times during the game. They shot themselves in the foot with numerous drops and off-target throws by RGIII including one to a wide-open Leonard Hankerson who dropped a sure touchdown an overthrow to Chris Cooley who was five yards behind James Harrison down the sideline.
*Another game with no turnovers created. The Steelers still only have three interceptions in seven games after getting just 11 last season.
*Repeating what I said last week, Shaun Suisham is making this whole kicking thing look too easy. 48 and 27-yard field goals this week and five of six kickoffs into the end zone, two for touchbacks. Time to get the Pro Bowl chatter started.
*Drew Butler quietly averaged 50.7 yards on three punts. He’s flying so far under-the-radar I’m guessing a lot of Steelers fans don’t know his name.
*Chris Rainey on kickoffs and Antonio Brown on punt returns continue to be incredibly dangerous. Brown broke a punt for a TD, but it was called back on an unnecessary block-in-the-back by Curtis Brown.
*Ziggy Hood got good push and blocked an extra point.
*Curtis Brown made an exceptional play downing a Butler punt at the one, just before the half.
*Curtis Brown got called for a block-in-the-back on a punt return that AB took back for a would-be touchdown. Brown didn’t need to do anything on the play and it continues a bad trend of Steelers penalties in the return game.
*Antonio Brown ran backwards into the end zone from twenty yards out, drawing a flag and the ire of coach Mike Tomlin.
*Will Johnson doesn’t need to field any kickoffs with Chris Rainey behind him. Bad choice.
*Mike Tomlin and his staff get an A+ for the second week in a row. Both coordinators dialed up excellent game plans.
*On defense Dick LeBeau went with much of what we discussed during the week. The defense played a lot of single-high safety and press coverage on the outside daring the Skins and RGIII to beat them over the top. They couldn’t do it. At the same time, for the most part, they contained the Skins ground game and limited big plays.
*Todd Haley called a fantastic game. On the Steelers second play Ben hit Heath Miller for a 25-yard gain after faking a bubble screen which has been a staple of the offense. It was a beautifully designed play. Haley did a great job of mixing run and pass and the occasional gadget play. While the Sanders reverse pass didn’t open up, Rainey’s direct snap set up the team’s final touchdown. The Steelers possessed the ball for 33:13.
*The offense should have run the ball on second down before the two minute warning from the Skins 40-yard line. They ending up throwing incomplete, not getting a first down and giving the ball back to Washington with an opportunity to score before the half.
Big Officiating Calls:
*Again not a lot of controversial calls in this one. The refs did a good job of discussing a pass interference call before correctly calling the penalty on RGIII who went long on a gadget play. They also correctly overruled a Keenan Lewis interception. It looked like some holding calls were missed, but they were generally consistent.
Up Next: The world champion New York Giants. The Giants looked unbelievable in the first half Sunday rolling to a 23-0 lead before holding on in the last seconds to win 29-24 over the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants are 6-2 and the best team the Steelers will have played so far this year. A big test in Met Life Stadium next Sunday at 4:25.
Originally posted here on ESPN 970 & reprinted with permission.