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FINAL GRADE: A+
As stated in Big Ben's final grade (last slide), sometimes the end result is greater than the sum of the parts.
Jonathan Dwyer ran for over 100 yards, the Steelers drove on Washington on the vast majority of drives, Big Ben's aerial attack put up three touchdowns, and the unit ended the game wiht a clock-killing march.
A dropped pass by Emmanuel Sanders (are ghosts of Limas Sweed randomly taking control of Pittsburgh’s wideouts?) ended a Pittsburgh drive on third down to open the fourth quarter.
Granted, they didn’t put the contest away on their first opportunity of the final act, but they masterfully ended the game on their last possession. Or, well, all but 26 seconds of it…
Getting around the edge, Jonathan Dwyer clinched his second straight 100-yard rushing game with a key first down, and he was smart enough to stay inbounds to keep the clock moving.
The Washington defense continued to be suckered by the Steelers’ misdirection plays on offense, but that paled in comparison to the gouging they endured at the hands of the running game. The offensive line blocked with a supremacy that Steelers fans have missed, and Dwyer and peers entered the fourth quarter with well over 100 rushing yards.
A first drive touchdown was highlighted by downhill running by Dwyer, a superbly executed direct snap (and amazing fake by Big Ben) to Chris Rainey, and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Will Johnson. Just like all season, Roethlisberger spread the field and distributed the ball across the board with a fine mix of aplomb and bravado.
Washington’s defense, clearly missing key playmakers such as Brian Orakpo, was equally lackluster against the pass. Not only did the secondary continue to get caught in bad position, but the defensive front failed to get any semblance of pressure on Big Ben.
With any semblance of a decent effort on their second possession of the quarter, the unit would have it stretch of “A” ratings, but they went backwards. A horribly set up screen pass was snuffed out, forcing a punt from the 10-yard line.
Momentum is a funny and often fickle thing. The Steelers surrendered a touchdown, and the offense responded with a masterful drive. Jonathan Dwyer continued to run downhill, continuing to prove like last week that he may just have the skill set to be an every down back. Chris Rainey converted a key 3rd-and-2.
Then, finally, Big Ben pump faked to freeze the safety, stepped into the pocket to lock him in place beneath the route of Heath Miller, and hit No. 83 with a pass along the backline.
Gotten off-balance on delay draws and a plethora of other calls, the Redskins’ defense continued with its hands on its haps, unable to contain the dynamic Pittsburgh offense.
The real key in the first half, true for both quarters, was balance. Unable to narrow their focus against one element of the Steelers attack, the passing game benefited from the running attack and vice versa.
The opening drive was a masterful display by the Steelers’ offense. The Black and Gold played a chess game with the Redskins defense, utilizing misdirection, pump fakes, and trickery to complete their six-point march. The offensive line protected well, Jonathan Dwyer gained solid yardage on both of the game’s initial first downs, and six different players contributed to an early lead.
Jonathan Dwyer’s burst through a gaping hole off the right side of the line to open the Steelers’ second drive. Though that second possession was tempered by a failed gadget play, Ben’s third down connection to Mike Wallace showed a veteran savvy, foregoing the first down on a surefire connection with No. 17 into field goal range.
With Ben finishing the quarter 9-of-10, my favorite pass of the quarter came on the opening drive and was born from film study. The Steelers have used quick screens frequently in the early season, and they faked such an effort to the outside. The ‘Skins’ defensive backs predictably bit, and Heath Miller gained 25 yards on a wide open lob pass up the right sideline.