2012 Schedule

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule Preview: Week 8 Analysis Versus Washington Redskins

By Christopher DiMarino

This is another entry in a set of early looks at the teams the Pittsburgh Steelers will play in the 2012-13 season. The goal is to acclimate the average Steelers fan to the offseason changes each team has made. This will make the in-depth analysis in the week before the game more familiar and understandable.

Who: Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers

What: Week 8 Regular Season Matchup

Where: Heinz Field

When: 1:00 EST Sunday October 28th, 2012

How: FOX

Key Free Agent Additions and Losses:

Key Free Agent Additions and Losses
Position Name 2011 Team 2012 Team Role
WR Pierre Garcon Indianapolis Colts Washington Redskins Starter
WR Josh Morgan San Francisco 49ers Washington Redskins Starter
OT James Lee Tampa Bay Buccaneers Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
OLB Bryan Kehl St Louis Rams Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
LB Jonathan Goff New York Giants Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
LB Chris Wilson Philadelphia Eagles Washington Redskins Depth
CB Leigh Torrence New Orleans Saints Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
CB Trent Morgan Jacksonville Jaguars Washington Redskins Depth
CB Cedric Griffin Minnesota Vikings Washington Redskins Starter
S Tanard Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers Washington Redskins Starter
S Madieu Williams San Francisco 49ers Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
S Brandon Meriweather Chicago Bears Washington Redskins 1st String Backup
K Neil Rackers Houston Texans Washington Redskins Starter
QB John Beck Washington Redskins Houston Texans 1st String Backup
WR Jabar Gaffney Washington Redskins New England Patriots Starter
OT Sean Locklear Washington Redskins New York Giants 1st String Backup
MLB Rocky McIntosh Washington Redskins St Louis Rams Starter
CB Chris Horton Washington Redskins New York Giants Depth
S LaRon Landry Washington Redskins New York Jets Starter
S OJ Atogwe Washington Redskins Philadelphia Eagles Starter
FB Michael Sellers Washington Redskins CUT 1st String Backup
WR David Anderson Washington Redskins UFA Depth
WR Malcolm Kelly Washington Redskins UFA Depth
MLB Keyaron Fox Washington Redskins UFA 1st String Backup
CB Philip Buchanon Washington Redskins UFA Depth
CB Byron Westbrook Washington Redskins UFA 1st String Backup

The Washington Redskins had the best free agency out of any time I\’ve looked at so far. They didn\’t have many big losses; offensively, the only key loss may have been Jabar Gaffney. John Beck was given his chance last year and when he failed it made him expendable. On dfense, the Redskins will be without two starting caliber safeties and two linebackers, including Keyaron Fox. The Redskins will also be without Byron Westbrook, who got on the field quite a bit in a backup role last year and was just entering his prime.

Washington was clearly looking to get better offensively and they signed two young and rising wide receivers in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. A few backups were added  at the cornerback and linebacker positions as well. Cedric Griffin will probably see the field a lot as a defensive back next season. Leigh Torrence was primed to do the same but was cut. The final important addition is safety Tanard Jackson. His addition was made necessary with the two safeties gone and he has been a starter before in Tampa Bay so he should be able to contribute immediately.

2012 Draft Analysis:

2012 Draft Recap
Position Name Round College Height Weight
QG Robert Griffin III 1.2 (2nd) Baylor 6\’2 223
G Josh LeRibeus 3.8 (71st) SMU 6\’3 312
QB Kirk Cousins 4.7 (102nd) Michigan St 6\’3 214
OLB Keenan Robinson 4.24 (119th) Texas 6\’3 242
G Adam Gettis 5.6 (141st) Iowa 6\’2 293
RB Alfred Morris 6.3 (173rd) Florida Atlantic 5\’9 219
OT Tom Compton 6.23 (193rd) South Dakota 6\’5 314
DB Richard Crawford 7.6 (213th) SMU 5\’11 191
CB Jordan Bernstine 7.10 (217th) Iowa 5\’11 205

Washington made one of the biggest moves in NFL history when they traded up to draft Robert Griffin III. This move provided them with a highly regarded prospect at quarterback, who should be able to start for a long time. The cost for him was high as the Redskins had to give the St. Louis Rams three 1st round picks and a 2nd. Accordingly, the rest of the Redskins draft was lackluster. A key addition was Kick Cousins in the 4th round. He needs work and can learn a lot in a backup role to Griffin. The question is whether this choice was in disbelief to Griffin\’s success in the NFL or as an injury replacement.

Two of Washington\’s top five picks were spent on guards. There is clearly a desire to evolve this offense. Adding Griffin as the centerpiece gave them a player to build around. Adding two new quick receivers to go along with Santana Moss and tight end Fred Davis gives him a few weapons. The two remaining components are protection and offsetting the pressure with a run game. The offensive line didn\’t change much through free agency and I don\’t think a 3rd and 5th round prospect is going to spark a big transformation.

Coaching Staff:

The Redskins put a lot of stock into Mike Shanahan as a head coach. He will be entering his third season and is getting the pieces he needs to develop a franchise. He has been at his best with a good quarterback in the past like John Elway, and currently has two Super Bowl rings to show for it. His biggest strength is his ability to establish an effective running game with almost anyone at running back. He is still regarded as one of the best coaches currently in the league (154-108 overall record), but needs to backup his current reputation by turning Washington around.

The offensive coordinator for the Redskins is his son, Kyle Shanahan. I don\’t want to shout nepotism, but he it is what it is. One thing that I can\’t deny, is that he appears to have earned the position. He worked his way up the Houston Texans coaching staff to become their offensive coordinator for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. During those seasons, aside from a few injuries, the Texans offense was quite good; Matt Schaub was efficient and grossed a lot of yards. He is the youngest coordinator in the NFL at only 32 years of age and became a Coordinator at 28. This young man will have big shoes to fill this season.

Jim Haslett returned to the NFL to be the defensive coordinator for Shanahan\’s team in 2010. He was the defensive coordinator for the Steelers from 1997-1999 before getting hired as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. I respect the win/loss records he was able to achieve with a New Orleans team, that was not very strong in my opinion. I think he is better suited as a defensive coordinator and is likely considered a top 10 coach in that area.

Talk about coaching changes. Every coach but one on the Redskins has no more than two years experience on the Redskins. Both assistants are newer than that, and the secondary and wide receivers coaches are brand new. The only coach who has a longer tenure with the Redskins is special teams coordinator Danny Smith. So while many of us still look at the Washington as the same old Redskins, the reality is that this team is quite different.

Last Year\’s Stats:

2011 Team Stats
Stat Redskins Rank Steelers Rank NFL Average
Yards/Game 336.7 16 372.3 12 346.8
Points/Game 18 26 20.3 21 22.2
Pass Yards/Game 235.8 14 253.4 10 229.7
Rush Yards/Game 100.9 25 118.9 14 117.1
First Downs/Game 19.5 15 21.3 9 19.5
Interceptions (2011) 24 29 15 17 16
Interception Rate 4.06% 26 2.78% 18 2.91%
Fumbles Lost (2011) 11 22 13 26 10
Sacks Allowed (2011) 41 21 42 23 37
Sack Rate 6.94% 19 7.79% 23 6.82%
Avg Time of Possession 30:09:00 17 32:33:00 2 30:00:00
Stat Redskins Rank Steelers Rank NFL Average
Yards/Game 339.8 13 271.8 1 346.8
Points/Game 22.9 21 14.2 1 22.2
Pass Yards/Game 222.1 12 171.9 1 229.7
Rush Yards/Game 117.8 18 99.8 8 117.1
First Downs/Game 18.4 12 16.5 1 19.5
Interceptions (2011) 13 22 11 24 16
Interception Rate 2.55% 22 2.08% 24 2.91%
Fumbles Recovered (2011) 8 24 4 30 10
Sacks (2011) 41 10 35 17 37
Sack Rate 8.06% 8 6.60% 18 6.82%
Stat Redskins Rank Steelers Rank NFL Average
Punt Return Avg For 8.9 21 10.5 13 9.9
Punt Return Avg Against 7.8 10 8.4 12 9.9
Kick Return Avg For 22.1 27 25.1 8 23.8
Kick Return Avg Against 20.8 2 23.7 16 23.8
Field Goals Made 75.61% 29 74.19% 31 82.89%
Turnover Differential -14 30 -13 28 0
3rd Down % Offense 36.99% 15 45.92% 4 38.00%
3rd Down % Defense 37.38% 16 38.91% 19 38.00%
4th Down % Offense 30.77% 26 37.50% 19 43.26%
4th Down % Defense 40.00% 10 61.54% 28 43.26%
Red Zone % Offense 41.18% 29 50.94% 18 52.18%
Red Zone % Defense 43.86% 5 54.84% 17 52.18%

The Redskins were not great on offense last year and their defense was in the same boat. In fact, their special teams and efficiency were also quite poor. The Redskins didn\’t rank in the top 10 for anything on offense and only in sacks on defense. The silver lining is that Washington wasn\’t ranking in the basement of the league in many categories, but being in the NFC East, they will need to greatly improve to compete.

The Redskins offense only ranked in the top half of the NFL in passing yards and first downs. Quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Beck threw a lot of interceptions, and a 25th ranked run game also was a factor. The other glaring stat for this offense was the amount of points scored (26th). While passing yards, total yards and first downs were close to average, this didn\’t translate into points scored. To work on this, the Redskins will need to increase their ability in the red zone and limit their turnovers.

Washington did not have a good year on defense. Like their offense, they were good at limiting yards allowed and first downs, but were not able to carry this strength into points allowed. The Redskins biggest success was their ability to generate sacks. However, this was offset by their inability to generate turnovers.

Special teams was far from special for the Redskins last season. Brandon Banks did a great job returning and was particularly good on kick returns as he ranked 2nd in the NFL. Unfortunately, Washington was awful in every other facet of special teams. They were not good at covering, and Graham Gano did not have a good year kicking. Gano was only 31 for 41 (75.6%) and wasn\’t even 100% on extra points. Efficiency was questionably the team\’s biggest opportunity. The Redskins had one of the worst turnover differentials (-14) and the offense underperformed on 4th downs and in the red zone. On the defensive side, the Redskins were actually a top 10 unit on 4th downs and in the red zone.

Final Remarks:

Washington has a tough road ahead. The Redskins are trying to shake their poor reputation and reclaim the glory they had in the 80\’s and early 90\’s. There is no doubt that drafting Griffin III was the first step in that direction. While drafting a star quarterback is the easiest fix in the NFL nowadays, this comes at a big cost. Trading two additional 1st round picks and a 2nd to move up a few spots will severely cripple the Redskin\’s next two drafts. These two 1st round picks will most likely be top 10 picks. This will lead to the Redskins becoming active in free agency to fill in gaps. The Redskins were active this year and had questionably the strongest free agency in the NFL this past offseason.

I think that Griffin will succeed in the NFL as the Redskins have a great coaching staff to develop him. I do worry about the running game though. They will need to use Griffin in the running game to open up passing avenues, but Griffin is not a hulking runner like Cam Newton. Nothing will end Washington\’s season faster than losing their new quarterback to injury.

I worry about this Redskins defense as well. It was not good last year, and only appears to have gotten worse. Washington does not have too much cap room, so being without a pair of early draft picks, it will require solid drafting to add impact defensive players. The depth is there, so if some players step up, there is a possibility this defense could improve on 2011. If not, the likely path for this defense will be to slowly decline.

Before I go too crazy debating what this team will look like in 2012, I need to wait and see how the coaching staff utilizes the skill set of Griffin to see just how far this team can soar.

Key Stat:

Dick LeBeau vs. Rookie Quarterbacks. In 2011, Newton and Andy Dalton had breakout years against the odds. Both in my opinion were equally surprising. While Newton was able to run successfully against NFL defenses, he was also capable as a passer. On the other side, Dalton was good quarterback in college at TCU, but looked like a great quarterback in the NFL last season. 2012 is the year of Andrew Luck and Griffin. If you look at all four quarterback\’s final year in college you can get an idea of what to expect. Griffin had the most passing yards, highest completion percentage and least amount of interceptions. Add in that he had 10 rushing touchdowns, and he looks statistically like the best of the four.

2011 College Stats
NAME Passing Yards Completion % Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing Yards Rushing TDs
Robert Griffin III 4293 72.4 37 6 699 10
Andrew Luck 3517 71.3 37 10 150 2
Cam Newton 2854 66.1 30 7 1473 20
Andy Dalton 2857 66.1 27 6 435 6

The week 8 matchup seems like a cakewalk, but if Griffin lives up to expectations, it could be anyone\’s game. The saving grace for Steelers fans is LeBeau. You probably remember this story from last season when Dalton was set to square off against the Steelers as a rookie. LeBeau, since returning in 2004, has only lost to one rookie quarterback and that was Troy Smith ironically enough. This PDF is from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the only stats it\’s missing are the 24-17 and 35-7 victories the Steelers had over Dalton last season. The key stat is that in more than half of the games against rookie quarterbacks, the Steelers defense allowed less than 10 points.

Follow me on twitter @chrisdimarino

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