Before reading this week’s key match-ups, please read my Steelers-Redskins Preview.
On Sunday, the Steelers travel to Washington, DC to take on the 6-2 Redskins. This game pits the NFL’s top ranked defense against the NFL’s leading rusher, Clinton Portis. These are the match-ups that I believe will have the highest likelihood of impacting the outcome of the game.
Clinton Portis versus Steelers run defense
The Steelers have the NFL’s top ranked defense, and have proven very difficult to run on. Last week, Brandon Jacobs learned firsthand just how difficult the Steelers can be to run on. This week, Clinton Portis will be the latest running back to learn the true meaning of futility. He may go back to averaging 118 yards per game next week, but this week I predict 65 yards rushing. Sorry Clinton. Advantage: Steelers.
James Harrison vs. LT Chris Samuels
Harrison is a Pro Bowler, and is among the league leaders in sacks. He was held sack-less last week against the Giants, and will probably be looking to change that trend on Monday. Chris Samuels is the Redskins best offensive lineman. He will have his hands full with the smaller, but faster Harrison. Advantage: Steelers.
Willie Colon vs DE Demetric Evans
Redskins starter Jason Taylor has missed most of the season with an injury, but his replacement, Demetric Evans, has played extremely well. Evans is long, and very fast. He will give Willie Colon all he can handle. Colon has looked over-matched most of the season. This week should be no different. Advantage: Redskins.
Casey Hampton vs. Casey Rabach
Redskins’ center Casey Rabach held his own against Cleveland’s massive NT Shaun Rogers. He’ll get an even tougher test versus “Big Snack”. Hampton has been battling a groin injury, but played last week against the Giants.
The Redskins rely on their offensive line to drive their powerful running game. If Hampton can collapse their line, it will be a huge step in slowing down Clinton Portis. Advantage: Steelers.
Antwaan Randle-El vs. Steelers punt coverage
Steelers fans remember what Randle-El is capable of doing on punt returns. In fact, the Steelers haven’t had a capable return man since Randle El left Pittsburgh for Washington in free agency.
The Steelers are yielding only 4.9 yards per punt return this season. That’s an impressive number for a unit that has been one of the Steelers’ weak links over the past 3 years. Containing Randle El and Santana Moss will be a big accomplishment for this unit. Advantage: Draw.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Redskins pass rush
Surely the Redskins studied tape of the Steelers games against the Eagles and the Giants. They know that Big Ben is susceptible to the all-out blitz. Fortunately, the Redskins’ pass rush is not as accomplished as the Eagles’ or Giants’, having accumulated only 10 sacks this season. Advantage: Steelers.
Troy Polamalu vs. TE Chris Cooley
Redskins’ TE Chris Cooley is an integral part of the Redskins’ passing attack. With 40 catches, he is one of Redskins QB Jason Campbell’s favorite targets, and is 2nd on the team in receptions. Troy Polamalu is one of the best safeties in the league. Cooley will soon find out why. Advantage: Steelers.
James Harrison vs. Monday Night Football
Has anyone else noticed that James Harrison uses Monday Night Football the same way that Clark Kent used phonebooths? James Harrison turns into Superman each time he plays on MNF. In his last 3 games on MNF, Harrison has 7 sacks and about 200 forced fumbles (okay, maybe not 200, but he has quite a few). Harrison seems to shine brightest under the biggest spotlight. Monday night against the Redskins should be no different. Advantage: Harrison.
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