Week 8: Redskins vs. Steelers preview

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Keys to victory

1. Beware of trick plays » Pittsburgh does a good job of taking advantage of defenses that overcommit. Last week, for example, the Steelers ran two end-arounds, but the play that stood out was a lateral to Antonio Brown on the right side. The receiver then threw downfield on the other side to a wide open Chris Rainey -- who dropped the ball. If the Redskins aren't disciplined, they will be burned by one of these plays -- or more.

2. Beware of the return game » If kicker Kai Forbath has low line-drive kicks, the Steelers will get good returns. Rainey is a good kick returner, averaging 28.1 yards per return. Forbath's kicks sometimes get 3.7-second hang time; other times it's 4.2 seconds. The former will lead to big runbacks, as they have already. As a punt returner, Brown only has a 6.8-yard average on 12 returns, but he had a 23-yarder last week. In a game vs. an explosive offense, every yard could matter.

3. Stay committed to the run » That's probably not a big issue this season with Alfred Morris and a running quarterback in Robert Griffin III. The Steelers' defense ranks ninth in rushing yards allowed per game, but they're 14th in yards per carry (4.1). Two backs have had big games vs. them: Oakland's Darren McFadden (18 carries, 113 yards) and Tennessee's Chris Johnson (19 carries, 91 yards). The Steelers lost both games. Pittsburgh pursues well and its safeties are solid tacklers, but gaps were visible when facing some stretch zones during games.

Key matchups

LB Ryan Kerrigan

He hasn't had a quarterback sack or even a hurry in the past three games out of 144 pass attempts.

vs.

RT Mike Adams

He's fared well but struggles if defenders get their hands into his body first.

CB DeAngelo Hall

When he faces Brown, he can't play off as much as usual. He'll get burned.

vs.

WR Antonio Brown

He's fast and a big-play receiver. Fellow target Mike Wallace has had drop issues.

LB London Fletcher

Whether he plays or not, this is a big matchup, especially in the red zone.

vs.

TE Heath Miller

He's caught five touchdown passes -- watch out for the fade when he's lined up wide.

State of the teams

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh's defense is supposed to be aging and in decline. The Steelers rank second overall in defense, though 13th in points allowed. They're not making as many big plays, but they remain a solid unit if nothing else. They're 2-0 at home and are coming off a solid win at Cincinnati.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins' state isn't a whole lot different than a week ago. They have confidence they can win any game because of Robert Griffin III. They also have a defense that gives up too many big plays. A win against a good team on the road would do wonders for their confidence.

Examiner predicts

It's difficult to pick the Redskins against a team that makes big plays downfield -- until they prove they can stop them. The Steelers have good speed at receiver.

Steelers 27, Redskins 24

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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