Robert Griffin III: Why RG3 Will Outplay Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IOctober 28, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins  in action during their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

From both a fantasy and team perspective, Robert Griffin III is going to have his hands full against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

The Washington Redskins are on the road, and taking on Pittsburgh at Heinz Field is no easy task for an elite QB—much less a rookie. But RG3 is hardly a rookie in terms of production, and with the right game plan, he'll be able to outplay Ben Roethlisberger against the Steelers.

I'm not going to anoint Griffin and the Redskins as upset favorites, but there's a case to be made this could turn out to be a shining moment in RG3's rookie season.

For starters, though, Pittsburgh is going to have opportunities to score.

The Redskins have one of the worst passing defenses in the league and Big Ben is coming off one of his best performances of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he threw for 278 yards and controlled the pace of the game all night.

The Steelers have also found a nice back in Jonathan Dwyer to lead the attack while Rashard Mendenhall is out, and figure to have Isaac Redman available on Sunday after losing him to injury against the Bengals.

Moreover, the Steelers have their defense back in some semblance of order. Although still missing All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, they held Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in check in Week 7. The Bengals only passed for 105 yards and a touchdown in the Steeler win.

If you look at the success this year for Pittsburgh, all three of its wins have come when allowing fewer than 200 yards through the air.

All that said, there's plenty of opportunity for Griffin to lead the way on Sunday.

He's been one of the best QBs in the league so far, and by the numbers, he's only behind two of the NFL's most elite stars when it comes to QB rating, as noted by Redskins beat writer Grant Paulsen.

Robert Griffin's 101.8 QB rating is 3rd in the #NFL behind only Aaron Rodgers & Peyton Manning. His 70.4 completion % is No.1 in the league.

— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) October 22, 2012

Not only is Pittsburgh going to have to contend with the arm strength and decision-making in the pocket, it's going to have to focus on stopping the run, too. Yahoo! writer Brad Evans takes an intriguing look at his fantasy value at a different position.

Robert Griffin III is on pace for 1,110 rushing yards and 13 TDs or 189 fantasy points. That would've ranked 9th among RBs last year. Nuts.

— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) October 22, 2012

With the threat of the ground game looming over their heads, the Steelers will be forced to take a slightly different approach in the pass rush, much like they did against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.

It worked against the Eagles because Vick has shown poor footwork and holds the ball too long in the pocket. With RG3, he's shown the ability to get rid of the ball both down the field, over the middle and to his checkdowns, hence the 70.4 percent completion rate so far.

NFL Films took a look as his evolution earlier this week, as posted on the Redskins' official Twitter account:

The fine folks at @nflfilms take a look at the evolution of #Redskins QB @rgiii:

— Redskins (@Redskins) October 24, 2012

It isn't going to be a walk in the park for RG3, though.

Pierre Garcon, the team's top free-agent acquisition and best receiver through the first couple of games, is still sidelined with a foot injury. Tight end Fred Davis, the team's leading receiver, is now lost for the season with an ACL injury.

The only consistent role player besides Griffin has been running back Alfred Morris, who wasn't even the projected starter when training camp began. He's given the Redskins a big threat out of the backfield, but faces a Steeler defense allowing only 85 yards per game on the ground.

Facing James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and the rest of this defense, RG3 will have to be on his toes and quickly recognize when defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is bringing pressure or disguising coverages.

But based on his outings the past several games, it's hard to project that any team will be able to stop the rookie from Baylor. That is, until someone like the Steelers finally do.

Bottom line, RG3 has the skill set and comfortability in this Shanahan offense to take down Pittsburgh, much like when Mike was coaching the Denver Broncos and John Elway to wins over the team in the 90s.

In what I expect to be a shootout, I think RG3 will outplay his veteran counterpart, but the Steelers use the running game to put away this game late. The rushing ability of Griffin puts him in a class above Roethlisberger on this Sunday, and he excels in both box scores and fantasy lineups everywhere.


Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and a member of the Breaking News Team.


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