A physical Steelers team doled out hit after hit, outlasting the Redskins, who were much more composed through the second half than they were in the first.
The second half wasn't nearly as fun as the first half. The Steelers took both of them, though, winning the second 7-6 behind strong running by Jonathan Dwyer and a few outstanding plays in the secondary.
Washington's a tough, gritty team but it's obvious they're not quite there yet. The Steelers' experience and cohesion together, especially along the offensive and defensive lines were just too much.
Starting at the top of the third quarter....
- A nice play call by the Redskins to start the third quarter. A hesitation route from Leonard Hankerson designed to freeze and drag cornerback Ike Taylor out of his zone works perfectly, and Robert Griffin hits Niles Paul for a big gain.
- The injury to Ryan Clark really kind of put a damper on things. The defense continued playing well, top to bottom, and in many ways matched the same level of intensity as the first half, but looking ahead, outside of the quarterback, I'm not sure there's a tougher injury to swallow than one to Ryan Clark.
- After Will Allen shoved him out of bounds, Griffin got up looking to say something. He literally runs smack into James Harrison, backs up about three yards, and doesn't seem to say anything else.
- Smart rookie.
- Great play by Curtis Brown on the third-and-12 jump screen the Redskins try to sneak in against the Steelers' dime package. The Redskins got a nice gain on a similar play in the first quarter, but Brown gets off his block quickly, and forces Josh Morgan to hesitate a little. The rest of the defense reaches him for a minimal gain.
- Not trying to over-dramatize things like that, but that's championship football. We're going to dog Curtis Brown for the special teams penalty, but he downed the punt inside the one yard line in the first half, and stepped up and made a big play on a third-and-long situation. Guys like Brown rarely get more than one or two opportunities to make a play, and he made himself a factor in this game.
- Boy, Emmanuel Sanders is going to think twice before he gets in Jonathan Dwyer's way again. While it's easy to look at Spare Tire Dwyer's size and think he's exceptionally powerful, he didn't really show significant strength until he reached the second level on this play, where Sanders was engaged with cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Dwyer lowered his shoulder and knocked Sanders off his feet. Hall seemed more interested in keeping on Sanders, and more or less followed him to the ground.
- Those two would later scrap, leading to Hall taking off his helmet, drawing a penalty, then telling the ref his opinion of post-game activities the ref should strongly consider partaking in, picked up another penalty and got chucked. At the end of this play, though, Hall helped Sanders up off the ground after Dwyer de-cleated him. Weird...
- Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley adds yet another wrinkle to the ever-evolving bubble screen to Brown, bringing out both tight ends, Heath Miller and David Paulson, to create inside space. Defenses are catching on to the futility of trying to get to Brown when Miller gets in front of him.
- So this time, two defenders just crash into Miller, taking him out of the play. It works, too. That was the shortest gain on a Miller-led Brown screen this season. Four yards.
- Haley's not done yet. The direct snap to Rainey is a thing of beauty, and we're going to save it for Behind The Steel GIFs, but let's just say it could have been easily the most dominant play of the year, but someone didn't finish. I'm sure that player heard about it today.
- Dwyer should have scored on the first and goal run where he was stopped a few inches short. Not to knock him, he ran well Sunday, but if he was truly a power back, he wouldn't have approached linebacker Perry Riley as high as he did. Riley stopped his butt cold because, as the adage goes, low man wins.
- Or, maybe Dwyer simply wanted to wait one more week to get in on the Steelers' streak of games with a player scoring his first career touchdown. Baron Batch in Week 6, Chris Rainey in Week 7 and Will He Is Johnson in Week 8. Dwyer is the last one eligible, barring some kind of tackle eligible pass to Kelvin Beachum.
- Maybe I shouldn't rule that out just yet, considering Mad Scientist Haley's various play formulas.
- Lawrence Timmons really played a sensational half. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau adjusted to the amount of under routes the Redskins were completing, and had Timmons mostly reading the run until he recognized pass, then dropping back underneath, and it really stifled a lot of Griffin's comfort reads (short quick passes). Timmons didn't rush often, but when he did, he made an impact.
- A justified flag on Curtis Brown, though. Poor technique on his part. he could have gotten his helmet on the other side of Paul, the defender, but went straight at his back.
- Excuse me, I initially said Antonio Brown was 25 yards away when he turned around and ran backward into the end zone. He was at the 20. It's only five yards less stupid, but overall, a shockingly poor decision.
- This is a great example of the differences between most "real life" things and football. Penalties obviously aren't good, but DeMarcus Van Dyke was deactivated because of penalties. Antonio Brown's penalty was far more egregious, regardless of Curtis Brown's block in the back. Even the most strict discipline NFL coach isn't going to sit Antonio Brown.
- But you gotta do something. Do you dress him down in a meeting? Do you make him carry gear?
- London Fletcher was having "balance issues" earlier in the week along with a bum hammy. He played in his 232nd consecutive game Sunday, and he played very well. Just amazing. Great read on the slip screen to Rainey, and he popped him good.
- Expect the Steelers next several opponents to motion receivers into twins, particularly if they're reading Lawrence Timmons moving with the motion man. A few times Timmons and the cornerback (on this play, Ike Taylor) mixed up zone and man read, leading to a pretty simple 14-yard catch by Dezmon Briscoe.
- It's an effective way to attack a zone defense, and one the Redskins were really trying to find throughout this game.
- Credit Keenan Lewis with the sale of the interception that wasn't, but credit him with holding Aldrick Robinson's right arm, not allowing him to complete the catch, and not getting caught.
- The Redskins almost seem mad at Lewis for it, so they challenge him again with Briscoe, but Griffin misses the mark by two yards. The ball traveled 57 yards in the air, and he didn't even look like he put all of himself into it.
- Everyone saw what Hall did and there's nothing to say about him that hasn't been already. Big mistake on his part, things get the best of people sometimes. I'm sure he'll be fined quite a bit. But if I was Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett, I'd be far more concerned with the fact the rest of the defense didn't even seem to realize it was happening until Hall went back after the official for a third time. When your teammate is having a psychotic episode, it's your responsibility to separate him from his target of malice.
- The Redskins more or less had collapsed by this point, and the Steelers almost seem hesitant since the dual penalties called on the Browns. Larry Foote racked up a sack, and if he did his patented Stomp Out celebration move, it was much later and far less attention-calling than usual.
- All in all, a standout performance on both sides of the ball. Still, the offense left a bit on the field. The full product still hasn't been on display, but an excellent performance from the offensive line and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger highlighted an obviously successful day.
- The offensive line needed a confidence boost. They've got the NASCAR front four next week in their biggest test of the year.