As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 13 contest between the Steelers and Washington Football Team.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Washington’s D-Line Makes Minimal Impact
Arguably the biggest strength of Washington’s team is their defensive line. Top draft picks, top talent, and a huge reason why they’re second in the NFL with 36 sacks heading into Week 13. They stunt, they twist, and they’ll be a challenge for a full 60 minutes today. Pittsburgh has done an awesome job in pass protection but the sackless streak is in jeopardy today. However, if they can keep it going, they stand a good chance to move to 12-0.
2. Steelers Regain Their Focus
Get back to basics. Take care of the football, catch the ball, play within yourself. That’s receivers focusing on making the reception before trying to get upfield. That’s the backs playing within the run scheme and staying on schedule. That’s Alex Highsmith and Ola Adeniyi doing their job and not trying to be the next Bud Dupree. As Mike Tomlin pointed out, Washington is a sound, fundamental group. They won’t beat themselves. Pittsburgh can’t either.
3. Defense Forces The Ball Vertically
Not something I often suggest and not a stove you want to touch throughout the entire game. But you know Alex Smith and the offense’s goal is to throw short and let his playmakers run long. At some point, Pittsburgh will have to be aggressive and force Smith to push the ball downfield. Make throws deep downfield and outside the numbers. Follow a similar gameplan as they employed against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course, you better stop the deep ball too and Washington has weapons on the outside to win downfield. So corners are going to have to win contested situations and safeties will need to take good angles to the ball.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Washington Playmakers Give Defense Trouble On Short Week
Washington’s offense is full of versatility. Whether you’re talking rookie sensation Antonio Gibson, RB JD McKissic (who functions more like a WR, similar to Duke Johnson), or TE Logan Thomas, a former quarterback who can run, catch, and throw. The Steelers are on a short week with limited practice time so it’s a lot to handle. Those guys and this offensive structure is a concern.
2. Special Teams Aren’t So Special
Obvious one to add to the list now that it seems highly likely Chris Boswell will miss this game with a hip injury. Matthew Wright will make NFL debut as his replacement. At Heinz Field. In December. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Leg strength has been an issue and Wright is dicey from 48+ yards out. Even closer if wind is going to be a factor. The good news, at least, is there won’t be any crowd noise to worry about. So sorta makes it feel like a practice.
3. Defense Can’t Tackle The Catch
Although I wrote above I want to see the Steelers’ defense force the ball down the field, for the majority of the game, Smith will be throwing short. Hard to take it away all game. Need to tackle their weapons in space. Let guys like Gibson, McKissic, even underrated WR Cam Sims (listed at a get-off-the-bus-first 6’5, 215) do damage after the catch and the defense is going to struggle. Need to see better angles to the ball this week than we did against the Ravens.
Football Team: 20
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