Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
Last week, I went over some of the reasons why some fans thought that the Redskins would be able to win in Philadelphia last Sunday. There are some similar theories floating around out there this week:
- Ben Roethlisberger is a rookie and he’s due to have a rookie-type game—While earlier I said that I wasn’t drop-dead impressed with Big Ben, this is more wishful thinking than logical analysis. In fact, one could argue that he had his rookie-type game last week when he took seven sacks, many of them not the fault of his line but of him holding on to the ball for too long, and fumbled once. His 15 for 21 passing for 138 yards looked like a rather efficient 6.6 yards per attempt, if you count in the sacks and the 54 yards lost on them the Steelers gained just 3.0 yards per pass play. Still, Roethlisberger had no interceptions and a similar performance could well be good enough to beat the Redskins.
- This is a nothing game for the Steelers—If you’re going to lose a game, and this team isn’t going to go 15-1, the out of conference variety is the best kind to lose because it hurts you the least in the tiebreakers for home field advantage. Certainly, nobody thinks that Pittsburgh will go out and lose on purpose or anything like that, but Bill Cowher may want to pull back on the reigns a bit for this one. Again, this is wishful thinking. The Steelers will be more than ready enough to play.
All that being said, I think that the Redskins do have a chance in this one. The game matches the first- and second-ranked defenses in the NFL. That should equal a low-scoring affair and if that’s the case Washington will always be no more than one play away from being in it or even from winning it.
The question is, where will that big play come from?
- Clinton Portis?—Although the Steelers have a tough run defense, Rudi Johnson did have some degree of success against them last week. Portis could bust one, but he’ll need more than the 17 carries he’s had each of the last two games in order to do it.
- Patrick Ramsey?—As discussed in this space earlier this week, he’ll need Joe Gibbs to take the shackles off if he’s to make a game-winning play. I think that Gibbs will to some extent, but it’s not like Ramsey will be out there pitchin’ it around much.
- Sean Taylor?—He has a pick in each of the past two games and last week he showed some great RAC ability. It’s only a matter of time until the gets one and takes it to the house.
- Marcus Washington?—No doubt that it’s in Gregg Williams’ game plan to have Washington spending a lot of time in the Steeler backfield. Perhaps Washington can get the defender’s triple play and sack Roethlisberger, strip the ball away, and score a touchdown.
Out of these four, I’ll pick Taylor to make the big play, but I still don’t think it will be enough. The game will be competitive into the second half but the Steelers will hang on.
Pittsburgh 20, Washington 16