These two teams don’t know a lot about one another, considering they play just once every four years as the schedule rotates.
With that said, I reached out to Hogs Haven contributor Andrew York and asked him a series of questions about the upcoming game. He was more than generous to provide answers to these questions, and in this article I asked him how Washington planned to counter the Steelers in Week 13?
How will Washington and Alex Smith try to move the ball against the stout Steelers defense, and how will Chase Young and company try to slow down Ben Roethlisberger and Chase Claypool?
Check out his answers below, and be sure to follow Hogs Haven for the latest news and notes from the other side of the fence leading up to the game at 5:00p.m. ET.
When Washington has the ball, how will they try to move the ball?
OC Scott Turner runs an Air Coryell offense, but one with a lot of play action, pre-snap motion, and misdirection that seems to borrow heavily from concepts Sean McVay uses in LA. The offense has been focused around short and intermediate passing and a heavy use of RBs in both the run and pass game. This results in a lot of time-consuming drives and a high time-of-possession, but the number of plays increases the likelihood of a single mistake (penalty, turnover) derailing the drive. It also results in very few passes to WRs, but a lot of work for our 3-headed committee at RB (Antonio Gibson, JD McKissic, and Peyton Barber) both as rushers and as pass catchers. So long as it is a 1-score game, we should stay pretty balanced between the run and the pass. But if we get down on points early (as has happened often this season), we will go extremely pass heavy.
When the Steelers have the ball, how will the Washington defense attempt to stop Ben Roethlisberger and company?
DC Jack Del Rio has been running a 4-3 defense with an attacking, one-gap, upfield penetrating front. Hence, it is a defense that encourages the DL to be aggressive and shoot their gaps to get into the backfield if they can, but relies on the LBs to come up and defend unguarded gaps in the rushing game. On the backend, we primarily run zone coverage, but sometimes go man-to-man as the situation demands. We have been somewhat middle-of-the-road in terms of blitz percentage, often relying on the talented DL to do the work of getting to the QB without additional help.
In terms of how this translates to the field, we have a very talented DL with five 1st round picks on it (DE Chase Young, DE Montez Sweat, DE Ryan Kerrigan, DT Daron Payne, and DT Jonathan Allen) and they usually do a very good job of winning their matchups, resulting in a 51% pass rush win rate, 4th highest in the NFL. We also have some extremely underrated boundary CBs in Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby and a blossoming SS in rookie Kamren Curl. However, our LB group is full of late round picks and journeymen vets (you might remember Jon Bostic) and has been the Achilles heel of the defense so far this year. As mentioned before, the scheme relies heavily on LBs to fill gaps unguarded by the DL, but they have been doing a poor job of this so far this year. Our LBs have also been pretty poor in coverage, allowing opposing QBs to get the ball out quickly on throws to the middle of the field and partially negating our pass rush. We’ve also been struggling to figure out the FS spot, so the deep coverage may not be very good, but our DL are usually able to pressure QBs before they have a chance to throw deep. Overall, this has resulted in a defense that is ranked 3rd against the pass and 13th against the run according to Football Outsiders DVOA, but as mentioned before the weakness is the LB group and the defense would be ranked much higher if we had more talent in the middle.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Washington Football Team at 1:00 p.m. ET in Week 13.