This past weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers put on a clinic on how to beat the Washington Redskins and their talented rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Steelers were strong in all 3 phases of the game, and even when the Redskins appears to be gaining momentum, in the back of my mind I just knew that the Steelers would find a way to squash it.
On the offensive side of the football, I felt like the Steelers tried a little too hard in the first half to sort of force the running game on the Redskins. The passing offense was clicking, and the Redskins secondary really had no answer for the game plan that offensive coordinator Todd Haley had put into place. It is difficult to account for the speed of the Steelers wide receivers, and in many cases when teams over compensate for that, it leaves a player like tight end Heath Miller open. But the biggest problem the Redskins were having was pressuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. I understand how good he is when he has to improvise, but he’s even more accurate when he can just stand in the pocket and wait for his receivers to come free.
In my halftime analysis, I said that if the Steelers could extend their lead, they would really start to pound the Redskins with the football, and that’s exactly what happened. Running back Jonathan Dwyer came out after halftime and just pounded the Redskins D. The offensive line did a great job opening up lanes for him, and his performances the past 2 weeks have opened enough eyes that it has to put running back Rashard Mendenhall’s future with this team in jeopardy. If this team can continue to get that kind of effort out of the offensive line and running backs, they will be tough to beat.
But it was the defense that was the star of the day. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who happens to be 75 years old by the way, came up with a masterful plan for how to contain and frustrate Griffin III and the Redskins wide receivers. Let me say this, RGIII is a tremendous talent with a bright future in this league, but LeBeau is so experienced and so smart, it made RGIII’s job much more difficult. He put players in the right positions to make plays, and the defensive players executed. Rarely did you see the backside on the zone read left open, and even when it was, the second and third level closed in a hurry to fill in.
Also, the Redskins had around 10 drops in the game by wide receivers. This is unacceptable by NFL players, and was a huge part of the Steelers victory. There’s been much speculation about the cause, and while some of them were certainly lapses of concentration and unforced errors, some of those drops were because the Redskins players were getting hit. Hard. The Steelers were putting hats on players and you have to acknowledge that could have been in the minds of those Redskins receivers as they are dashing across the middle.
A quick thought on the end of the game, when Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall gets tossed. Hall is a clown and he’s selfish and I hope he’s fined for his actions. Did he get body slammed by Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders after he tried to run up on him during a play? Of course, but we’ve seen that so many times when receivers and corners are chicken fighting during a play. In most cases referees just ignore it, as they did in this case. But Hall chose to act like a petulant child when he didn’t get a call. Personally, I think Hall was tired of the beatdown he was getting and wanted an early exit from the game.
In the final analysis, this was a real signature win for the Steelers as we hit mid-season. Their schedule is completely back loaded in terms of division games with 5 of their final 9 against AFC North opponents, so this win was huge heading into this arduous stretch run. The Steelers offensive line found it’s rhythm, and it’s running game has traction, so watch out.