by Will Strome - Columnist, NFLWeather.com | 10-27-2012 08:00
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins are surprisingly similar teams. Both rep inconsistent 3-4-formation defenses, both have two high octane and creative offenses and both have yet to win two consecutive games this year. But the most obvious comparison is that both have a quarterback who can make plays in and out of the pocket, throwing and/or running the ball. Both teams will desperately need their franchise QB’s, Ben Roethisberger and RG3, to make big plays in the mud with a heavy dose of rain falling on Pittsburgh all weekend.
NFLWeather.com forecasts an 80% of rain for game Sunday and that’s not even the worst of it. The high will only top off around 48 degrees and winds will be swirling around 15 mph with similar conditions on Saturday. The problem with Saturday is the University of Pittsburgh has a home football game against Temple and if the rains come down during the game then the grass field for Sunday will be a complete mess. The Steelers are already known for having tough field conditions but these might take the cake for week eight. That being said, it’ll be smash mouth football at it’s finest with tempo and ball control ruling the outcome.
Neither defense is particularly solid against the run. Pittsburgh (3-3) has allowed over four yards per carry this season and the aging unit just isn’t the same without Troy Polamalu who will miss the Washington (3-4) game. According to NFLWeather’s historical analytics, the lone rain game the Steelers played early this year, a 16-14 week five win at home over Philadelphia, the defense rose to the occasion and pummeled a team with a similar style to that of the Skins’. The Eagles were only able to muster up 78 yards on the ground and contained Michael Vick to 168 yards passing while forcing two critical turnovers. Matching that performance all but guarantees a win for Pittsburgh at home.
But the biggest difference between the Eagles offense and the Redskins is Philly’s doesn’t have a quarterback who leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.4%). Robert Griffith III has lived up to the Heisman hype, even if the sample size has only been seven games. But one thing he hasn’t gone up against yet is a tough road game in the rain. Whereas the Roethisberger and the Steelers always feel at home in crappy weather, according to the NFLWeather’s historical analytics, the Skins won their last road game a year ago in Seattle’s boisterous stadium. But wind, mud and a driving rain might be enough to cause problems for a rookie. RG3 will still have his drop back pocket passes and rollouts but rain might force the play calling to focus more on his designed QB sneaks out of the pistol formation. Getting a few lead blockers in front of him might be the best way to consistently grind out four and five yard plays if the passing game starts to slip away.
Grinding it out for the Skins should be left to Alfred Morris. With Pittsburgh experiencing major injury issues in the backfield, Morris has seized his opportunity after the starters in front of him went down. For the Steelers, Jonathan Dwyer will start for the injured Rashard Mendenhall who is out and Isaac Redman is probable and will backup Dwyer. Both Morris and Dwyer are bruising power backs but Morris has been at the job for a few weeks now. The Steelers should expect to see a heavy dose of Morris in the mud and might even see a few swing passes out of the backfield if they can catch the Steelers on a blitz. Dwyer surprisingly leads the team in rushing with 192 yards but don’t be surprised if Ben Roethlisberger ends up with more carries as both sides thrive off broken plays and scrambling. Big Ben has made a career of that and little will change in the game plan for Sunday.
This game had all the potential for turning into a shootout but the storms could force the play calling more conservative which is hard to imagine given these two teams. Both will desperately be relying on the play of their quarterbacks and if the game comes down to a field goal, there’s a good chance neither Shaun Suisham nor newcomer Kai Forbath will deliver. It will be one big, broken play that will make the difference in the Burgh
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