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Need to Know: Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Steelers

Sep 12, 2016, 6:21 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, September 12, the day the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff, 6:00, CSN; Steelers @ Redskins, 7:00, ESPN

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 246 days ago. The wait for another one ends today

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 6; Browns @ Redskins 20; Redskins @ Ravens 27

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Steelers

Will the Redskins get their running game going? The Steelers were fifth in rush defense DVOA last year and there is no reason to think that they will be significantly worse. The Redskins were 32nd in offensive rushing DVOA and have essentially the same personnel back. It’s not impossible to see the Redskins winning without much success on the ground—they did win three games last year when rushing for less than 100 yards (lost six). But a running game will improve their chances. They were 6-1 when the did rush for over 100.

—Will the Redskins come out with something different? Something different on offense, like a lot more of the no-huddle attack? Some wrinkles to get Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson open? A blitzing defensive scheme? I’d be surprised if anything like that happened. I think that Jay Gruden would rather spend this year consolidating the gains the team made in 2015 and not stray too far off of that successful path. But the whole idea of doing something like that would be that it would be a surprise, right?

—The absence of WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) is a big deal for the Steelers if only because of the cumulative effect of them missing so many offensive weapons. The Steelers gained 6,327 yards last year. They are without the injured Wheaton, the retired TE Heath Miller, and the suspended RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant. Those players accounted for 2,605 yards from scrimmage, 41 percent of the Steelers’ total. That’s a pretty substantial chunk of total offense torn out of the lineup. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger has a way of finding ways to get it done and to make productive players out of ordinary ones but at some point the losses get difficult to overcome.

—Compared to past offseasons there has been relatively little focus on the Redskins’ quarterback position this year. That’s because Kirk Cousins is the unquestioned starter and there is no controversy. But the focus is about to change. His every move will be under the microscope, every incompletion, every (gasp!) interception will be closely scrutinized. I don’t think that Colt McCoy will become the most popular guy in town if the Redskins lose a couple in a row but Cousins’ $20 million salary means that the adage that the QB gets too much blame for losses will be magnified, starting tonight should they lose.

—I’ve been trying to come up with a prediction for this game ever since the schedule came out. The Steelers are the better team and that may not be offset by much of a home field advantage (I was there in 2008). But the Steelers’ injuries and other absences are something of an equalizer. I think this is a winnable game for the Redskins and if I had any confidence in their ability to run the ball I might pick the upset. But I don’t so . . .

Steelers 24, Redskins 21

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  1. garg8050 - Sep 12, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    The Steelers appear to be the better team. Can the ‘Skins win? Absolutely. It will take their “blue chip” players to make some plays tonight, ie. Norman, Reed, DJAX, Cousins, etc.

    Even more than the running game, the o-line will need to hold up in pass protection. I’m not expecting much of a running game tonight, but Kirk will need time to find his guys. Defensively, I hope the secondary can hold up enough to give Kerrigan, Baker, and Smith chance to get to Ben.

    Tall task tonight but I’m hopeful….Skins 27-23.

  2. bangkokben - Sep 12, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    Channeling Captain Obvious here, but tonight’s game will come down to who can finish plays. Who can make the tough catch, who can finish the tackle, get the sack and not the hurry. Whichever team does that more often will win the game.

    • Trey Gregory - Sep 12, 2016 at 2:34 PM

      No more captain obvious than yesterday when Troy Aikman said something close to “usually the team who comes away with more touchdowns wins.” Wow, mind blown Troy. I never thought of it like that.

      Those weren’t his exact words but they’re real close. And guys get paid to do that!

      • bangkokben - Sep 12, 2016 at 5:35 PM


  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 12, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    6th thought: HTTR!

  4. skinsgame - Sep 12, 2016 at 8:39 AM

    The Redsks are 2-14 at FedEx Field on MNF and their prime time record overall during that time period is more of the same. This is a game that this franchise has lost so many times it’s sadly predictable and usually in an ugly or boring fashion. The match ups are what I believe makes the difference and the Steelers are better on the line of scrimmage from both sides of that line. I’m not a believer in the Redskins O line and Cousins has a huge drop off when under pressure. Josh Norman can not shut down Brown by himself and it only takes a few plays to blow a game open. Ben Roth can’t be tackled and won’t be pressured without bringing the house and even then, he probably still won’t be pressured. This game has the earmarks to be another ugly prime time game for the Redskins even with the Steelers injuries. They are good at spots the Redskins are not.

    Still, the Skins pull out a squeaker here, 56-16. HTTR!

    • HTTR_King - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:18 AM


  5. renhoekk2 - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:13 AM

    I think the Steelers will set out to run the ball tonight. They have one legit WR and no TE’s to speak of. Even with Roethlisberger they won’t be able to just throw the ball all over the field they way they prefer to. One would hope with limited receiving threats the Redskins will be able to drop an extra player or two into the box to stop the run tonight. Doesn’t setup as a good game to try and establish the running game. The strength of Steelers D is the front 7. I have no problem with the Redskins only giving the running game a cursory look tonight. Definitely not going to win running the ball. It will only lead to a lot of 3rd and long situations. The secondary is the Steelers Achilles heel. Their starting secondary is very suspect, their 3rd and 4th CB and 3rd Safety have to be even worse. I say spread them out and throw it all night.

    • bangkokben - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:22 AM

      Speaking of spreading out and throwing, anyone else surprised to see how often Dallas and New England went with five wide? Didn’t see every game yesterday, but I did see a bunch of five wide.

      • renhoekk2 - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:42 AM

        I did see those two games. That’s why I would love to see it tonight. With our WR group and TE’s we have to have one of the best receiving corps in the league. It would be a tough match up for even good secondaries. The Steelers is sub par. Spread them out and run hurry up every once in a while. If Belichick is will willing to do it with his backup QB against a good secondary, it should be our modis operandi tonight.

        • bangkokben - Sep 12, 2016 at 10:04 AM

          I’ve been saying all summer: “Sling the snot out of the ball.” I like it. I don’t know if you have to go hurry up or empty backfield often but it should gradually become a significant part of our attack.

        • ET - Sep 12, 2016 at 1:03 PM

          Tonight seems like as good a night as any to try some hurry up and five wide. I’d only add that I’d like to see the Skins’ backfield involved in the pass game, especially if they aren’t doing much on the ground.

        • Trey Gregory - Sep 12, 2016 at 2:45 PM

          Part of the reason the spread became so popular in HS and college football is because it makes life easier on the QB (like a young QB in Gorrapoolo). But it still provides all those advantages to a more veteran QB like Cousins.

          The spread has been in the NFL for a while now, just not as a base offense. It is a legitimate way to attack a NFL defense. It would also help Cousins get the ball out quicker so protection doesn’t have to hold up as long.

          I don’t know about 5 wide receivers though. That would mean no TE or RB. I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a great passing attack from 11 personnel. DJax and Garcon on the outsides, Crowder in the slot, and Reed from the Y. I just think there’s more mystery to our intentions if we do that. That’s still 4 receivers and a RB who can go out for a pass but we could also use the RB or TE in protection. Or even run the ball. I’m hoping to see a lot of 11 and 12 personnel groups tonight. I believe that’s where the strength of Gruden’s offense is.

  6. COSSkinsFan - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    We are getting the Steelers at the right time with all of their injuries. I think until proven that we can we need to not count on our run game and use short passes to supplement running. As long as Cousins can perform similar to last year we’ll be OK on offense. Our strength of passing marches up well with their weakness of pass defense. I can see DeSean getting a long td. As far as controlling BB & AB, this is our defensive strength of pass defense. While their run game is better than ours, without Bell it’s not elite. I think we match up well with the Steelers as with a lot of teams on our schedule. I watched the other NFC east teams yesterday and still think we will win the division, but maybe not as easily as I had thought. Not falling for the Wentz hype, it was one game…against Cleveland. The point is we need this, turnovers are another equalizer so let’s hope that secondary and pass rush can get us some. My pick Redskins 27-24. A win in prime time HTTR!!!

    • renhoekk2 - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:30 AM

      Saw the Eagles game. Wentz had a lot of passes that made you say WOW! Both good and bad. He would make a great throw then follow it up with his next three passes missing by a couple of yards. Then make another great throw. He did seem in control and the moment didn’t seem to big for him as they say. I don’t think he will ever throw for a high completion percentage. Seems very scatter shot with his accuracy. Pretty much only threw to J Matthews and Zack Ertz. Cover those two guys and I’m not sure he will know what to do with the ball. I don’t want to pile on Griffin. I have nothing against him, but the Browns offense had no rhythm and really did not sustain a drive the entire game. Had two long passes that setup both of their scores. The Browns gave them short fields the whole game. The Eagles had one good drive to open the game. The rest of their scores they started in CLE territory. A bad fake punt call, a long Sproles punt return, a poor decision to go for it on 4th down. So other than the opening drive PHI didn’t really drive the ball either. And the Eagles don’t seem to have much of a pass rush.

    • Trey Gregory - Sep 12, 2016 at 2:56 PM

      This is in response to both of the comments above. I watched The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants play too. I came away more impressed with Wentz than you guys. Yes, he made mistakes and had some bad throws. But keep it in context. He’s a rookie QB in his first ever NFL game and his biggest experience has been in the FCS. It’s way, way too early to project anything about Wentz’s future completion percentages or anything like that. I just know he had good footwork, commanded the offense, the moment didn’t seem too big for him, and he made skme great passes. I believe he is the real deal. Or, he will become a good QB in time.

      People are sharing “it’s just the Browns.” But that Browns defense was getting pressure. I was very, very impressed with Carl Nassib. Ogbah looked good too and Danny Sheldon is a first round nose tackle. So “it’s just the Browns” but they had 3 high round draft picks rushing Wentz on every play and they got plenty penetration.

      I think Philly has a QB. Dallas surprised me that they couldn’t get their run game going but I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t get going real soon. Dak looked like a rookie and couldn’t get the ball to Dez. That’s not likely to change this season. But, somehow, the Dallas D actually looked better than I expected. They held Eli Manning and OBJ to just 20 points. That’s impressive. On the other hand, the Giants’ D did not impress me. I’ll bet they get better as they get used to eachother, but it’s not a given. We can win this division but it’s no cakewalk.

      • COSSkinsFan - Sep 12, 2016 at 3:31 PM

        I usually like watching the Cowboys play the giants because the last few years they both look sloppy when they play each other. Yesterday both had their issues, but didn’t seem sloppy to me. Hopefully they just looked decent because they were playing each other. Both of their defenses did better than I thought they would.

  7. bangkokben - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    Wow. Leonard Williams with 2 1/2 sacks and 6 QB hits in the Jets loss. As much as I was for taking him over Scherff, guards’ careers generally are longer than 3-4 DEs’ careers.

    • sidepull - Sep 12, 2016 at 11:10 AM

      Leonard Williams. SMH

  8. troylok - Sep 12, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    I think the game comes down to turnovers. Washington needs to be on the positive side of the takeaway-giveaway equation. Frankly, I may be wrong on this but I think the Redskins can get pressure on Big Ben. If they can force him into floating a few, we have the defensive backfield that can go get it.

    • COSSkinsFan - Sep 12, 2016 at 10:13 AM

      Agreed, we all wish we had Gallette but I think that PS & RK are underrated. Kerrigan is consistent with pressure and forcing fumbles. Hopefully Smith continues his development into a star. Gallette not being on the field just keeps Smith out there more. I can’t wait to see what a healthy DeSean can do tonight.

    • ET - Sep 12, 2016 at 1:30 PM

      I predict Smith, Cravens and Baker will all sack ol’ Ben tonight. Cravens will buat through on a blitz. Kerrigan will get some pressures and/or hits.

      I’m still nervous about our DL, but I don’t think it’ll be a cakewalk for Ben, either.

      • renhoekk2 - Sep 12, 2016 at 2:28 PM

        PIT’s RT is average and also coming in a little injured. They were not sure he would play earlier last week. Kerrigan should have a good game against a gimpy RT or his replacement. At least one would hope so.

      • Trey Gregory - Sep 12, 2016 at 3:00 PM

        You guys think Cravens will get a lot of snaps? I think that’s a very dangerous proposition. Love his potential but he’s still very raw. He was out of position a lot in preseason and that’s a recipe for disaster with Ben throwing the ball. I hope they ease Cravens into this role and mostly let his observe against such a high powered offense. Ben will target him if he’s in coverage. I guarantee it. They watched the preseason tape. Cravens bites hard on play action. Ben just has to run some play action, the roll to his right and he will have an open receiver in the middle.

    • Trey Gregory - Sep 12, 2016 at 3:02 PM

      I think the main key to this game is who gets more pressure. There are more “keys to the game” but I see that as the most important.

      • COSSkinsFan - Sep 12, 2016 at 3:33 PM

        I agree and I’m hoping that Hood will have a little something extra for the team that drafted him. Archives

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