Friday, October 26, 2012

Steelers Face "Otherworldly" Test Against Redskins And RGIII

Only one rookie quarterback has ever beaten a LeBeau-run Steelers defense: Troy Smith in 2007.

Only one quarterback has ever run for 100-plus yards against the Steelers: Jack Concannon of the Philadelphia Eagles 56 years ago in 1966.

RGIII could do both this Sunday.

Last week when we posted the post-game blog of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals game, we briefly commended the play-calling. Todd Haley and Dick LeBeau ran circles around the Zimmer/Gruden connection. Coaching was a big part of that win.

Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley both drew up good game plans, and LeBeau specifically gets lots of credit for putting in a scheme to help his corners. He brought in more dime and finally worked Curtis Brown into the lineup and it caught Dalton by surprise.

Both need once again to have very specific game plans. Game plans where LeBeau unleashes Timmons on the line of scrimmage, especially with the absence of Troy Polamalu, to contain the phenomenon known as Robert Griffin III.

Expect a lot of base defense, Cover-1 and Cover-3 to keep a lot in front of them. All the while, it isn't as if they can just sit back and be passive against RGIII. They still must be aggressive and get after him.

Per Mike Tomlin at his weekly press conference on tuesday, the Redskins run an option attack that is are designed quarterback runs. Tomlin pointed out rightly that RGIII's runs in college were mostly on broken plays. -

As Tomlin said, RGIII is "writing his own script" right now, and the Washington Redskins are doing a nice job of playing to his strengths.

The Redskins running game with the plucky Alfred Morris and their "new age triple-option" or "East Coast", as some of their players have called it, with RGIII changes slightly each week and presents a unique challenge.

Casey Hampton agrees.

"I was just tellin someone...if I was an (offense) coach, (the Redskins zone-blocking scheme) is what I would run."

He said further that there's "no question" the Redskins are the best running team the Steelers have faced. "Downhill runners," he called them. He said that the Redskins build their success off of the running game and play-action.

Absolute truisms. And while it isn't a true read option that they run, everything they do is designed, they play to RGIII's strengths. All on the Steelers defense agree, and his play has been described as "otherworldly":

Per Mark Kaboly on his personal Twitter (@MarkKaboly_Trib) account: "Watching this RGIII cat. Here's a bold statement ... Steelers gonna have a heck of a time stopping this read/option. HECK OF A TIME!!"

Really? A quarterback with veteran accuracy, the moves of a halfback and the speed of a wide receiver...we hadn't noticed.

ASIDE - We need to address a side point that gets on my last, exposed, raw nerve: Are bloggers and the media in general so racist, prejudiced, closed-minded or just so addle-brained that they can only compare quarterbacks who happen to be Black to other quarterbacks who happen to be Black?

Unless he was really high yella, Concannon mentioned at the outset was not a Black quarterback. Yet, go back and look at his stats, he was a running quarterback.

We bring it up again, not to castigate any one particular person(s), but because many did just that all week. One Steelers website, in rebutting an article by Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette, inserted a poll asking readers to compare RGIII to a list of four running quarterbacks...not one was of a Caucasian persuasion.

We wrote about this in a recent article and brought out some salient points and brought up non-Black quarterback names who were known also as fleet-of-foot athletes, such as Bobby Douglas, Roger Staubach, Steve Young and John Elway among MANY others. Some of whom are in the league now. -

*puts soapbox away*

Considering RGIII's unique skill set, quick release, accuracy (70% completion), instincts-beyond-his-years and grace under fire, LeBeau needs to make sure his defense is prepared, tackles the catch and is PATIENT. -

Todd Haley has the easier job Sunday. Not that this would create bulletin board-type material, but the Redskins defense is not very g...well, it's really bad.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has called the offense "dink and dunk," and, though he says he loves it, he still wants to go downfield more. -

He'll have his chance against the Redskins. They are anywhere from 27th to dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and completion percentage given up in the deep right, deep middle and deep left. They're ranked 28th in points and 29th as a unit overall. -

If Big Ben doesn't salivate too much and is patient enough to let it all unfold and come to him, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace should feast gametime Sunday. -

I had a chance to interview Wallace regarding what he expects Sunday, but he dropped my recorder breaking it which disallowed me to bring you that piece. Maybe next time...

By the way, those who love to vilify Haley and his offense, shouldn't do so. Last season through six games, the Steelers passing game produced 18 splash/explosive plays and averaged 19.9 points. Through six games this season, they've produced 28 such plays and are averaging 23.3 points.

Regarding the running game now, Jonathan "Cold-187" Dwyer will be your starter again. (I called him "Cold-187 because of where he was drafted and his running style. Look it up. But, stop the "Baby Bus", "Short Bus", etc...crap. There was only one Bus!)

The Steelers' longest run last year was the 76-yard burst by Dwyer. Their longest run this year is Dwyer's 32-yarder last week in Cincinnati. When Dwyer was first drafted I called it a steal. Though it didn't exactly turn out quite that way, he has overcome adversity to become an important part of the Steelers offense. -

As a bit of feel good point of interest, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was listed as going full Friday so expect him to keep his 231-game streak alive Sunday.

As the leader of that defense, Fletcher will be needed as Dwyer has been talking about the thrill of getting his first career home start Sunday, and Redman says he might also play after practicing again on Friday.

Just as the Steelers want to stop, or at least contain, their run/run option game, they'll look to do the same after watching Dwyer's 122-yard performance and watching Willie Colon VIOLENT play last Sunday night.

Make no mistake, though, Haley's offense will have to put up enough points to keep ahead of the otherworldly dangerous RGIII. If they can do that, the Steelers should come away with an exciting 60 minutes of a closely fought win.

TIDBITS: Redskins-Steelers preview:


Last week, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said that the foot/ankle injury to right tackle Marcus Gilbert may keep him out as for as many as six weeks

Gilbert retorted via his Twitter account: "I will not be out for 2 months, ill back really really soon!"

We'll see. When he does return, he may find himself the swing tackle if Mike Adams continues his improving play. Stay tuned.


Per Bob Labriola: "Steelers to wear their 1934 jerseys vs. Redskins on Sun. When these franchises played in 1934, Pittsburgh lost both. 7-0 and 39-0."

Thanks for the bad mojo, Labs.

Here's our take on them:


Tomlin says penalties on special teams are disturbing and threatened to stop the "grievous offenders" *CoughDeMarcusVanDykeCough* from continually committing the offenses.

Asked how you to stop guys from committing penalties on returns, Tomlin said: "You can take the helmet off them and make them watch."

Loud and clear.


Practice Report: FRIDAY - Marcus Gilbert, Brandon Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu all sat out practice. Will Allen, Chriss Carter, Jonathan Dwyer, Maurkice Pouncey and Jason Worilds all participated fully.

Gilbert, Troy, Mendenhall, Johnson out for Sunday. Redman is questionable and everyone else is probable.