Place: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a record of feasting on rookie quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III isn’t your average rookie.
After a heartbreaking loss, RGIII will try to become just the second rookie to defeat a LeBeau-coached defense in this century when he leads theWashington Redskins into Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday. Pittsburgh, which is coming off its first road win, has won eight straight interconference games and Ben Roethlisberger is 14-1 at home against NFC opponents.
Rookies are 1-14 against LeBeau’s intricate zone-blitz schemes since the 75-year-old returned to Pittsburgh in 2004. But Griffin will catch a break since Steelers’ All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu (calf) is expected to sit out for the fifth time in six games. Griffin, the league’s most accurate passer, was spectacular in a near-upset at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants last week.
The Steelers have won six of the last nine meetings with the Redskins.
Washington Redskins (3-4): Griffin made all the highlight shows after he converted a fourth-and-10 with a desperate scramble and completion to tight end Logan Paulsen. He then threw a go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown to Santana Moss. The only thing that prevented Washington from winning was its league-worst secondary (328.4 ypg).
Griffin boasts an NFL-best 70.4 completion percentage, is third in quarterback rating (101.8) and has rushed for the second-most TDs (6) in the league. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris (658 yards, 5 TDs) has been one of the biggest surprises, trailing Houston’s Arian Foster by just one yard for the rushing lead. Not surprisingly, the Redskins are the NFL’s best rushing team at 177.7 yards per game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3): Pittsburgh is seeking to win two straight for the first time this season after a come-from-behind 24-17 win over Cincinnati. Reinforcements are on the way. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey (leg, questionable), as well as running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles, probable) and Isaac Redman (knee, questionable) may return this week.
Third-string running back Jonathan Dwyer filled in nicely with 122 yards against Cincinnati, helping the Steelers move from 31st in rushing to 26th (90.2). Thanks to Roethlisberger (294.2 ypg – 5th) the Steelers have converted an NFL-best 53.8 percent of third downs. Defensively, Pittsburgh ranks second in the league in both total yards (277.3) and against the pass (184.8 ypg) despite missing Polamalu.
1. Former Ravens quarterback Troy Smith, another Heisman Trophy winner, is the only quarterback to beat the Steelers since 2004. He was 16-of-27 for 171 yards with one touchdown in Baltimore’s 27-21 win in 2007.
2. Redskins TE Fred Davis, who leads the team with 24 receptions, tore his Achilles’ tendon in the loss to the Giants. The Redskins filled the void Monday by re-signing eight-year veteran TE Chris Cooley, who was released in the offseason.
3. To celebrate their 80th season, the Steelers will unveil throwback uniforms, which are replicas of the team’s 1934 uniforms.