Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
What To Watch For: Three Redskins, Steelers Storylines
1. A Tough Task: Josh Wilson said the team the Redskins will face today “definitely isn’t your grandfather’s Steelers” because of their deference of the running game for which they were so feared over the years. Instead, Pittsburgh will throw the ball, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger trusting his top two receivers, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, and his tight end, Heath Miller. That will likely be an explosive situation for Wilson and the rest of the Redskins’ defensive backfield, as Washington is allowing 328.4 passing yards a game this season – the most in the NFL.
2. Fletcher’s Finale? London Fletcher pulled his hamstring during the third quarter of the Redskins’ last game, a loss to the New York Giants, and didn’t return. He also has been struggling with his balance during the week – an issue Fletcher revealed Friday traces back several weeks. Though the linebacker practiced fully on Friday, according to head coach Mike Shanahan, he’s considered questionable and may not play against Pittsburgh, depriving the Redskins of one of their best run stoppers and a player capable of covering tight ends. By not appearing in the game, Fletcher’s streak of 231 consecutive games played, which began in St. Louis on Sept. 6, 1998 and is currently the longest in the NFL, would end.
3. Mirror, Mirror: The Redskins and Steelers run practically the same defense, aside from a few variations, partially because of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s Pittsburgh roots. Both run the 3-4, though the Steelers incorporate much more zone blitzing – a trademark of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Several of the Redskins’ offensive players said they could benefit from facing their own defense during training camp and the preseason; the team rarely, if ever, goes one-on-one with its top units during the season. “Any benefits that we gain from it will be nullified by the benefits that they gain from it,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Usually, it’s a wash.”