If you go by what Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Art Rooney, Jr said in his post-2011 season comments, the need for a new offensive coordinator was to help Ben Roethlisberger ‘tweak’ his game, get better in the red zone and return the team to a more solid running attack. Exit Bruce Arians and enter Todd Haley.
Now at six games into the 2012 season, the offense is averaging about 23 points points per game which is up by about three points from last year. I would go so far as to say that Ben Roethlisberger has more than tweaked his game to fit Haley’s style and is none the worse for it. He has been sacked less, has a higher completion percentage and has been absolute money on third downs. Yet even Ben complains a bit about the nature of the ‘dink and dunk’ offense despite having many plays over 20 yards or more. Death by a thousand cuts seems to work against our defense so why can’t we employ it in our offense?
This week, the Steelers return home where they will play three out of their next four. They are currently 2-0 in Heinz Field and are facing a Washington Redskins’ team that has been very competitive in all seven of their games behind rookie QB Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. The ‘Skins defense is another issue entirely this week and the Steelers’ offense has an opportunity to ‘unleash hell’ unlike we’ve seen in some time.
The Redskins rank 28th in overall defense, 31st against the pass and are 10th against the run. They are without defenders Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker who are both gone for the season and now might possibly be without iron-man linebacker London Fletcher for this one as well. Fletcher I don’t think has missed a game since the Clinton Administration. Should he be gone, not only do the ‘Skins lose a great player, but a great leader as well who gets players where they are supposed to be.
This is still an NFL defense and should be treated as such. Ryan Kerrigan is a play-making defensive end who can create issues for any offensive tackle so I look for similar adjustments from Todd Haley and Sean Kugler in terms of help for Mike Adams as we saw last week in Cincy.
The Steelers really have no excuse this week if they can’t put up more than the 23 points they are averaging. Lesser teams have accomplished this in 2012 against Washington so there is no reason the Steelers can’t score on this defense at will. This does not mean the Steelers will or should abandon their current ‘dink and dunk’ offense that currently ranks 11th overall and sixth in passing because the system really is working. Can it be better? Hell yes it can better, especially in some of the play-calling situations inside the opponent’s territory but that will come and I still like this offense better than Bruce Arians’.
Whether the running back is Jonathan Dwyer or Rashard Mendenhall shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference with one exception. When Mendy is in the backfield I think the possibility of him being targeted in the passing game grows significantly more than it does with Dwyer. If I’m the Redskins, I’m paying close attention to that. With Chris Rainey looking a little more comfortable last week, I believe you’ll see him get more touches as well depending upon the situation.
Obviously, there will be many eyes on Mike Wallace who will no doubt hear a Bronx cheer upon catching his first pass. Let’s just hope it’s not after several drops. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller should again have good days catching the ball as well.
Of course now that I’ve written this, the game will turn out to be a defensive struggle ending 10-7, but even I know better than that. RGIII is going to make plays and our offense will have to make sure we are scoring touchdowns and not kicking field goals. Let’s hope the this is a day where the offense has a bit of a coming-out party and leads the Steelers to consecutive victories for the first time this season.