Week 8: Redskins-Steelers preview

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Washington at Pittsburgh
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh - TV: FOX; DirecTV: 707
*TV announcers: Sam Rosen, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
*Keys to the game: Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has done a commendable job considering the stars he has lost to injuries. Breakdowns in the secondary have been extremely costly in several of the Redskins' four losses. The Steelers are well equipped to test CBs DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson with vertical shots to WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown while softening the underbelly of the defense with TE Heath Miller. For Washington to hold up defensively, it must find a pass rush to complement OLB Ryan Kerrigan. DT Barry Cofield is coming off a strong game, but isn't a constant pass-rush threat. The Redskins are averaging a gaudy 177.7 rushing yards per game, and the vast amount of formations they can run out of creates a lot of one-on-one matchups downfield. QB Robert Griffin III has routinely hit streaking receivers over the middle of the field off play-action, but the season-ending injury to TE Fred Davis robbed Washington of its most consistent chain-mover in the passing game.
*Matchup to watch - Redskins ILB Lorenzo Alexander vs. Steelers ground game: This could be a battle of attrition. While the Steelers hope to get RBs Rashard Mendenhall and/or Isaac Redman back from injury, Alexander could be thrust into the starting lineup pending London Fletcher's (hamstring) status. Considering their issues in pass defense, Washington must be able to stuff the run with its front seven.
*Player spotlight - Redskins TE Logan Paulsen: Primarily a blocker, Paulsen entered last week's game with 14 career receptions and one on the season. He was targeted six times and caught four passes after Davis ruptured his Achilles but the re-signing of Chris Cooley makes his hold on the job appear tenuous.
*Fast facts: The Redskins haven't scored an opening-drive touchdown this season. ... The Steelers have won the past four meetings. Washington's last victory over Pittsburgh came 21 years ago.
Washington's four road games have been decided by an average of 5.4 points. The Redskins will struggle to get off the field defensively, but if they can avoid the back-breaking big plays, Washington's ground game should lead to a big edge in time of possession and wear Pittsburgh's defensive front down.
*Our pick: Redskins 28-27

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