How Pittsburgh Steelers' Defense Made RGIII Look Like a Confused Rookie
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The Pittsburgh Steelers completely held Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and the rest of his offense at bay in Week 8, defeating them 27-12. Griffin's day was poor thanks to solid defensive performances by the Steelers as well as his receivers having a terrible case of the drops.
The drops aside, though, the Steelers defense did its job when it came to neutralizing Griffin. The biggest threat the Redskins posed was in the run game. They were the top-ranked rushing offense in the league headed into this game (they're now second), with Griffin having 468 yards and six touchdowns and running back Alfred Morris with 658 yards and five scores, and as such, the Steelers started with shutting down the run from the very beginning.
Ultimately, the Redskins had just 86 rushing yards on Sunday—59 for Morris on 13 carries, and eight yards for Griffin on six. Early on, it was about containment on Griffin and simply stuffing Morris when he was handed the ball.
Setting the edge was key, as was properly targeting their pressure. Flushing Griffin out of the pocket gives him an easy outlet to take off, so they needed instead to force him to remain as a statue in the pocket and give him no room off the edge.
For Morris, it was simple run-stopping. Helping matters is that Griffin often telegraphed the hand-off, giving the Steelers a better idea that a run was coming rather than a play-action pass. Further, Pittsburgh was able to play its defenders close while still having enough help deep in case a pass was called when it first appeared the Redskins would be running.
The Steelers offense also did a lot to dictate how their Redskins counterparts approached their drives. Yet again they dominated in time of possession—the Steelers had the ball for 17:33 in the first half and 33:13 overall—and that combined with an early 10-point lead forced the Redskins into playing with more urgency whenever they were able to get the ball.
That urgency can result in mistakes if it's not channeled properly and likely played a part into why the team recorded 10 dropped passes on Sunday. Further, being down 10 points—and then 14 at the end of the half—required a more aggressive approach.
Though the Redskins have been a strong running team thus far this season, the Steelers have a top-10 run defense and there was little reason for the Morris and Griffin to continue to run a ball against a group like that with a significant point deficit. Their ability to run the ball was therefore shut down entirely via a combination of good defense and a need for Washington to score points quickly. The only option quickly became passing the ball.
Passing isn't a pleasant proposition when it's raining and windy, especially for a rookie quarterback like Griffin despite his stellar completion percentage heading into the game. Griffin had just 177 passing yards and one touchdown on the day and completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time this season.
Ben Roethlisberger had a sharp day passing the ball, but he's also had more experience and wasn't pressing the deep passes in the same way Griffin had to in an attempt to close the points gap.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh's defense did a fine job when it came to shutting off the Redskins run game, and once Griffin was forced to pass, a combination of defense, drops and the weather took care of the rest.
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