PITTSBURGH – The Steelers’ 400th win in their modern history could only be won this way:
A 100-yard rusher, a sharp quarterback, and defense.
Classic Steelers football.
“It was Steeler weather,” Brett Keisel pointed out. “So we had to play Steeler football.”
On a cold and drizzly October afternoon, the Steelers punished rookie quarterback Robert Griffin and the Redskins in a 27-12 win.
Stopping a rookie trying to run the option would seemingly be an easy mark for the Steelers, but Griffin’s no ordinary rookie and the Redskins don’t run an ordinary option. It’s an attack that gashed the defending champion New York Giants for 248 rushing yards the previous week.
So the Steelers went back and dusted off their option “rules,” weren’t diverted by gimmicks, and pressured the reigning Heisman Trophy winner like he was just another of the previous 14 they’ve vanquished under coordinator Dick LeBeau.
The Steelers held the Redskins to a season-low 86 rushing yards to snap an NFL long 13-game streak of 100-yard team rushing performances. The Steelers held NFC rushing leader Alfred Morris to 59 yards on 13 carries and Griffin to 8 yards on 6 carries.
Griffin fared no better through the air. With the help of 10 dropped passes, the Steelers held Griffin – the NFL’s completion percentage leader coming into the game – to 16 completions in 34 attempts.
“We went out there and played defense,” said linebacker LaMarr Woodley. “I know everybody kind of forgot about our defense because of the way that we’ve been playing these last few weeks. We just got back to playing our style of football and that’s attacking, getting after quarterbacks, making them play our game, stopping the run. That’s what we did today. We didn’t allow their quarterback and the type of offense they had to control the game.”
On Wednesday, the Steelers looked like anything but the defense that trampled RG3 on Sunday. They went through an adjustment period in working to stop the Redskins’ zone read option.
“Other than that we had a great week of practice,” said Keisel. “Coach LeBeau drew up a great game plan today, and a lot of it was just checking to our base defense.”
“From the very beginning of the week all we talked about was running, running and hitting all game, and that’s what we did,” said safety Will Allen. “We knew if we could run and hit we could make them quit. That was our mentality. Coach LeBeau talked about it and the whole defense just rallied around that mindset.”
Allen was one of the Steelers’ key players. The replacement for Troy Polamalu became top dog in the deep patrol when Ryan Clark left early in the third quarter with a concussion. But it was just like another practice against the Steelers’ first-team offense with Allen and Ryan Mundy playing in place of the two Pro Bowlers.
Allen credited the Steelers’ cornerbacks for locking down the Washington receivers and the front seven for its steady pressure on Griffin.
As for the dropped passes, Foote fittingly went old school to dish out the credit.
“Too many Terrible Towels flying around,” he said. “It was getting in some guys’ eyesight.”
Added Foote: “It’s been a long time since we had to do so much thinking. There was a lot of homework. I was going home and studying and watching film, because what they put on tape last week against the Giants made you realize you had to be on your Ps and Qs or they’ll gash you. And they gashed us a few times on mental stuff. But most times when an offense comes in like that you’ve got to run and tackle, and that’s what we did.”