Snapshot: Steelers-Redskins
(SCI/NFL Media)
(SCI/NFL Media)

Posted Nov 3, 2008


WEEK NINE: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Washington Redskins (6-2)

KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/03/08
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ESPN (Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya)
SERIES: 76th regular-season meeting. Redskins lead the series that began in 1933, 42-30-3 including a 21-12-3 record in Washington. The teams last met Nov. 28, 2004 in Pittsburgh with the Steelers winning 16-7. This will be their first meeting in Washington in 20 years or since Chuck Noll coached the Steelers and Joe Gibbs was in his first tenure with the Redskins. The Steelers have a three-game winning streak against Washington, which last beat them in 1991.

PREDICTION: Steelers 24-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins have yet to have a game decided by double-digits, so they don't play with a large margin for error. Ideally, they'd like to ride league-leading rusher Clinton Portis (944 yards) to set up the timing-based passing game. But that won't be an easy task against the league's No. 3 run defense. There will be a bigger onus on Campbell to make plays downfield while continuing to avoid big mistakes. ... In a tough road environment, the Steelers will attempt to get the ground game going, especially with RB Willie Parker expected to play. But Pittsburgh should have success when it goes to the air. The Redskins have just 10 sacks and don't have the pass-rushing weapons to take advantage of the Steelers' pass-blocking issues. QB Ben Roethlisberger also has WR Santonio Holmes back and will take his fair share of shots against a secondary minus CB Shawn Springs.

Key Injuries: Steelers: LT Marvel Smith (back spasms) will be replaced by Max Starks; FS Ryan Clark (shoulder) and CB Bryant McFadden (forearm) are out. Redskins: RB Ladell Betts (knee) and Springs (calf) are out; DE Jason Taylor (calf) is doubtful; LT Chris Samuels (knee) should play.

Need to know: This will be Pittsburgh's first game at Washington since 1988. ... Portis has topped 120 rushing yards in five consecutive games, averaging 139.2 during that span.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Steelers:
--LB LaMarr Woodley, whose 7.5 sacks is one behind team leader James Harrison, did not practice for the second straight day Thursday because of a calf injury.
--LB James Harrison, along with the rest of his teammates, had no sacks against the Giants but he did have seven QB pressures, boosting his team leading total to 18.
--OT Marvel Smith did not practice again and likely will miss his third start because of "back spasms." Max Starks will replace him.
--P Mitch Berger (hamstring) did not practice again but said he thinks he'll be able to play. Berger also holds for PK Jeff Reed.
--QB Ben Roethlisberger returned to the practice field and will start. He has a sore shoulder, but it's not prevented him from playing all season.

Redskins:
--RB Ladell Betts is out with a sprained knee for the third straight week.
--CB Shawn Springs is out with a strained calf for the third straight week.
--WR Malcolm Kelly is out with an ailing left knee for the fourth straight week.
--DE Jason Taylor is out with an ailing calf for the third time this season.
--OT Chris Samuels (knee) practiced again on Thursday after sitting out at Detroit.
--S Chris Horton (ankle) practiced again on Thursday after sitting out at Detroit.
--DT Cornelius Griffin (shoulder) practiced again on Thursday after sitting out at Detroit.
--RB Clinton Portis (hip, ankle) didn't practice for a second straight day but is expected to start on Monday.
--WR Santana Moss didn't practice for a second straight day but is expected to start on Monday.
--FS LaRon Landry (hamstring) didn't practice for a second straight day but is expected to start on Monday.
--G Pete Kendall (knees) returned on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday and is expected to start on Monday.
--DT Lorenzo Alexander (toe) took full practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday and is expected to play on Monday.
--CB Carlos Rogers (calf) was limited on Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice and is expected to start on Monday.
--KR Rock Cartwright (knee) returned on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday and is expected to play on Monday.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Steelers:
Willie Parker smiled on Thursday after going through his second full day of practice for the first time since his left MCL was sprained Sept. 21.

"I've been waiting to see that," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "That's a telltale sign, when he starts smiling, he's ready to go."

Unless there's a setback over the next few practices, Parker will play for the first time in more than a month, against the Redskins Monday night in Washington. He was the second-leading rusher in the AFC after two games, both over 100 yards, but has not played in the past four.

Mewelde Moore, however, won't be relegated to the background and, in fact, could get more carries against the Redskins than Parker.

"He's not ready to go out there and play 50 plays," Arians said of Parker. "He thinks he is, which is a real good sign. I hope he feels that way."

Moore averaged more than 100 yards a game over the past three, all starts, and leads the team with 322 yards and a 5.0 average per carry. Moore, who had just one carry in the first three games, became the starter when Rashard Mendenhall was knocked out for the season with a broken shoulder Sept. 29.

Parker has 263 yards and a 4.0 average per carry.

"They both give us a nice one-two punch right now," Arians said. "Between the tackles, they're very similar; they have the ability to jump-cut, set a guy up and burst through a hole. Mewelde doesn't quite have Willie's giddy-up and go when there's a crack to hit it and take it any distance. They both have good vision and I like guys who can run between the tight ends."

Redskins:
One of the secrets to the success of NFL rushing leader Clinton Portis of the Redskins is his 6-foot-3, 284-pound fullback, Mike Sellers.

"It's fierce to see a man 285, 290 (pounds) running through a linebacker 230, 240 (pounds)," Portis said. "You can't sustain that contact for a whole game. It's only a matter of time before you start getting out of the way."

Sellers, who remains grateful to the Redskins for giving him a second chance in 2004 after drug charges cost him his job with the Browns, tries to deflect the credit for Portis being within one game of tying Hall of Famers Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson as the only backs to ever rush for at least 120 yards in six straight games.

"To have those consistent 120-yard games is great, but we've always been able to run the ball," Sellers said. "It's no secret. All our linemen are healthy. They put eight in the box and we've still been able to run the ball. That's a credit to our line because they get movement. I'm the guy on the bottom of the totem pole."

Sellers used to be more high profile under former coach Joe Gibbs. He scored eight touchdowns on just 13 touches in 2005 and was given the ball 43 times the past two years. But Sellers has only one carry and two catches through eight games under new coach Jim Zorn.

"I was lucky enough that (former assistant head coach Al) Saunders and Gibbs liked the big backs and they gave me a few chances," Sellers said. "As long as we keep winning, I can't complain. When we run the ball, it's a direct reflection of what I do. Deep down, I'd like to run the ball a little more, but I'm a fullback in this offense and the fullback is predicated on pretty much just blocking."

Zorn said Sellers is too valuable as a lead blocker to give him the ball.

"He would love to run the ball," Zorn said of Sellers. "We don't let him. He would love to be more involved in the passing game. We don't let him. It takes a lot of self-discipline and a lot of pride in doing the things he's asked to do."


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