QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. QB Robert Griffin III
We normally steer clear of positions that cannot make contact on the field, but the play of both quarterbacks in this game will be the ultimate factor. From Roethlisberger’s perspective, it’s perhaps the defense most prone to allowing big plays he’ll see all year. With a bevy of big-play receivers at his disposal, he should be able to get the ball deep to a few of them a few times in this game. While it’s more likely the Steelers will emphasize their ball control offense and grind the tempo of the game down, they will have a few deep passes planned.
Griffin, running the newly minted East Coast Offense in Washington, excels in pre-snap reads, and uses that in their run/pass option offense to a high level of success. Washington throws out of play action 40 percent of the time, and much of that is based on Griffin reading the linebackers in pre-snap and seeing where they are when he’s handing the ball off. He’ll pull out of that, and make a throw to the weak part of the defense. He will be challenged by the Steelers’ zone blitz scheme, and his decision-making will be put to test.
WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown vs. CBs Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall
The matchup favored the Steelers receiving group last week at Cincinnati, but it’s an even bigger advantage this week. The Steelers left multiple touchdowns on the field against a sagging Bengals defense in Week 7, most notably, three drops from Wallace that could have extended drives. Antonio Brown seems to catch 7 passes for around 80-90 yards each game. Both could have big games against the overmatched Redskins secondary.
Big plays are killing Washington’s defense. Some of that is due to the lack of pass rush they have, but their cornerbacks are struggling in zone coverage, and will be put to their biggest test this season. The long speed of Wallace and the route-running and quickness of Brown will be difficult for either corner to contain.
ROLB James Harrison vs. LT Trent Williams
Harrison is coming back bit by bit from knee surgery in August, working to re-strengthen his legs. That’s the source of Harrison’s Defensive Player of the Year ability. Against a tough-to-read option, Harrison will need that lower body power to maintain the edge against a very strong tackle in Williams.
Williams is living up to his high draft pick status. He’s healthy, which is helping him play his best football as a pro. A lot of Griffin’s read is going to come off the outside linebackers, and the Redskins do not appear to make a call at the line indicating run or pass, so Williams’ assignment is to maintain the line of scrimmage in a zone-blocking scheme. He’s quick and strong, giving Harrison one of the tougher match-ups he’ll have this year.
FS Ryan Clark vs. RB Alfred Morris
With the amount of movement the Steelers’ front seven displays, the more accurate pre-snap read for Griffin is probably Clark. He will also have to move around a bit, disguising his intentions, but most importantly, read the play as it’s happening. Morris is not a particularly powerful or fast runner, but he isn’t afraid of contact. Clark will have to shadow him, particularly on zone runs, waiting on him to make a cut up the field.
Morris and Griffin are in a good rhythm together, and it’s led to outstanding rushing numbers for both of them. Washington will want to spread the Steelers out as much as they can, isolating 1-on-1 battles while moving off the line. Morris will run hard, but he must get up field before a hard-charging Clark descends upon the line of scrimmage.