Redskins Week 8: Scouting the Steelers

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Jeffrey Tomik

Scouting the Steelers

1 Secondary still strong » Even without safety Troy Polamalu for most of the season, the Steelers' pass defense ranks second in the NFL. Led by top cornerback Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh has allowed just 184.8 passing yards a game. But the Steelers haven't exactly faced the toughest quarterbacks in the league. Since allowing 253 yards to Peyton Manning in a Week 1 loss, the Steelers haven't faced a quarterback ranked higher than 13th in passer rating. Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III ranks third (101.8).

2 Taking care of the ball » Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has turned the ball over just four times this season (three interceptions, one fumble). He also has thrown for 1,765 yards and 11 touchdowns for a 98.6 passer rating. While the Steelers have done well taking care of the ball and defending the pass, their defense hasn't forced many turnovers. They have just three interceptions. This is the area where Pittsburgh misses Polamalu the most.

3 A carousel of backs » Four different running backs have led the team in rushing during a game this season, including Baron Batch with just 22 yards in Week 6. Injuries have hurt the Steelers' running game. Pittsburgh has averaged just 90.2 yards per contest, ranking 26th in the NFL. Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) both missed last week's game, along with center Maurkice Pouncey (knee). All three have a chance to return Sunday vs. the Redskins. Whoever is available, the Steelers still might lean on Jonathan Dwyer. In his first career start last week against the Bengals, Dwyer rushed for a career-high 122 yards on 17 carries (7.2 yards per carry).

4 Keeping contain » The Steelers' linebackers will be challenged this week facing Griffin and the Redskins' zone read. Pittsburgh always has quality linebackers, and this is a veteran group with LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison. Foote and Timmons lead the team in tackles, but Harrison hasn't looked the same since coming back from a knee injury. On Sunday against Griffin, it will be the group's football IQ that will be challenged as much as its athleticism. Griffin and the Redskins' offense thrive on using play fakes to confuse opposing linebackers.

jtomik@washingtonexaminer.com

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Jeffrey Tomik

Sports editor
The Washington Examiner