Location: Landover Md.; Stadium: FedEx Field (85,000); Weather: 73 degrees and mostly cloudy; Kickoff: 8 P.M. ET; TV Coverage: ESPN; Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), John Gruden (color analyst), Lisa Salters (sideline); Coaches: Mike Tomlin (Steelers) vs. Mike Shanahan (Redskins)
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers got a slow start to the preseason losing in their first contest (18-13) to the New York Giants. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp completing 50% of his passes (4/8) and looked to have bought into the game plan offensive coordinator Todd Haley set out. Defensively, penalties (7-50) were a problem. Especially Jason Worilds who committed two penalties in a row against the Giants.
In 2012, the Steelers missed the playoffs by finishing their season at 8-8 (.500). The defense finished first in the league for a second consecutive season but the offense lacked a good running game and ability to keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy. With a young and confident offensive line led by center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers may have their best starting offensive line in years.
Washington Redskins: The Washington Redskins clawed their way to victory last week against the Tennessee Titans in week one of the preseason (22-21). Quarterback Robert Griffin III did not play (knee) and is not expected to play for the entire preseason. Second year quarterback Kirk Cousins will get the start for the Redskins. He went 6/7 for 52 yards and threw for one touchdown to tight end Fred Davis last week. Defensively, the Redskins racked up 3 sacks (Phillip Merling, Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo) and allowed 288 yards. The defense gave up a 58-yard touchdown run to running back Chris Johnson.
In 2012, Robert Griffin III led the Redskins to the playoffs but went down with a knee injury in the Wildcard game. The defense finished 28th in the league giving up an average of 377.7 yards a game. Mike Shanahan plans to have these problems fixed here in 2013.
Things to watch for: David Paulson looks to be the starting tight end until Heath Miller can make his way back. With the Steelers thin at the position, watch the progression of Paulson. The special teams had a bad outing against the Giants (blocked punt; muffed punt), but watch to see if that improves as the special teams’ coordinator Danny Smith looks to improve that from here on out. The battles taking on right now are between punters Brian Moorman and Drew Butler, and running backs Johnathan Dwyer and Baron Batch. Moorman seems to be leading the race at punter and Dwyer looks to be ahead of Batch at running back.
Spotlight Player: The spotlight player for this game is running back Johnathan Dwyer. Dwyer should have more reps with the injuries this past week to co-starters Isaac Redman (stinger) and Le’Veon Bell (knee). The two have not been ruled out to this point, but either way it spells more attempts for Dwyer. Last week he carried the ball 6 times for 15 yards.
Bottom Line: Look for the starters to play a bit longer tonight as coach Mike Tomlin will get a stronger evaluation of his team.
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