This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your quick-hitting reference guide to everything you need to know about the Washington Football Team and the Pittsburgh Steelers in this week 13 matchup. The TPS is sponsored by Gryffin the King!
What: Washington Football Team 4-7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 11-0
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: 5pmET December 7th 2020
Weather: 34 degrees and mostly cloudy at kickoff
Line: Steelers -7 O/U 43.5
Last Week: The WFT defeated Dallas 41-13 in the Thanksgiving Day game while the Steelers won a sloppy contest with the Ravens 19-14 this past Wednesday night.
TV: Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analysis), Pam Oliver (field reporter)
TV Coverage in Your Area: Make sure you check the506.com this week. It is NOT a national game despite being played on Monday evening.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley and Missi Matthews on the sidelines.
Head Official: John Hussey. This is Hussey’s sixth season as a head official. His most recent Steelers’ game was earlier this season when the Black and Gold beat Cleveland 38-7. His crew had 13 accepted penalties in that game.
Key Injuries/Game Status (courtesy steelers.com) PIT: QB Ben Roethlisberger (NIR/Knee) – Questionable
CB Steven Nelson (Knee) – Doubtful, K Chris Boswell (Hip) – Doubtful – downgraded from Questionable to Doubtful on Sunday WFT: DE Ryan Anderson (Knee) – Questionable, T Morgan Moses (Groin) – Questionable, WR Terry McLaurin (Ankle) – Questionable
2020 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 7th WFT 24th Passing Offense: PIT 16th WFT 24th Rushing Offense: PIT 26th WFT 20th
Total Defense: PIT 1st WFT 7th Passing Defense: PIT 1st WFT 2nd Rushing Defense: PIT 8th WFT 15th
AFC North Rankings: Pittsburgh 11-0, Cleveland 9-3, Baltimore 6-4, Cincinnati 2-9-1
This Week in the AFC North: Cleveland 41 Tennessee 34 Miami 19 Cincinnati 7, Dallas at Baltimore (Tues) 805pm ET
What You Need to Know: The Steelers are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine games… Four of their last six games have gone ‘over’ at home… T.J. Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. This is the second time he’s won the award this season… Watt now has 31 sacks in 30 career games at Heinz Field… The Steelers’ defense needs one sack to tie the all-time record of 69 straight games with at least one sack… In 1933, the Steelers’ inaugural season, they actually played their first four games on a Wednesday… Since 1950, the Steelers are 63-32-3 against a former number one overall drafted Quarterback. That’s the highest winning percentage in the NFL.
Washington Football Team Names to Know: QB Alex Smith, RB Antonio Gibson, WR Terry McLaurin, DE Chase Young, DE Ryan Kerrigan, TE Logan Thomas, S Landon Collins, LB Reuben Foster
What’s at Stake: For the WFT, they may be 4-7 but they’re in prime position to win the NFC East so there’s a lot to play for if you’re them. It pains me to say this but if the Steelers were going to lose one game in 2020 this would be it. The Chiefs loss is to Las Vegas, a fellow AFC team. A loss to the WFT would not affect the tie-breaker giving the Steelers the advantage if both teams finished 15-1. The Steelers can clinch a postseason berth with a win or a MIA or LV loss. (Those didn’t happen)
All-Time Series: WFT leads 42-33-3, WFT leads all-time IN Pittsburgh 22-20
Last Meeting: In Washington September 2016 Steelers 38 WFT 16
Check out the latest Steel City Blitz Steelers Podcast for more on this game.
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
1. Next Men Up. Mike Tomlin has followed two mantras consistently in his time as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. One is “The Standard is the Standard” and the other is “Next Man Up.” The latter will be pushed to the limit this week. With Bud Dupree lost for the season, Alex Highsmith must capably replace him. There is no expectation that he does everything Dupree did, that would be asking a lot, but there’s no reason he can’t hold up against the run and provide enough push rushing the passer to allow the other guys to flourish. With Steven Nelson doubtful, the next man up behind him is likely going to be Cam Sutton. Again, no one is asking Sutton to be who he is not. He will be tasked with making sure he tackles well and keeps receivers in front of him. This is what the Steelers do. If Mike Tomlin expects it then so should we.
2. Accept Who We Are Offensively. James Conner is still a question mark as I type this as he continues on the Covid/IR list (UPDATE: He is out for the Game). Honestly, that really doesn’t matter. We need to stop worrying about “getting the running game going” or “establishing the run.” This is clearly a pass-first offense and has been for some time. Many of Ben Roethlisberger’s passes are ‘extended handoffs’ anyway and are extensions of the running game. I’m not saying Randy Ficthner stops trying to run the ball but I think the emphasis on it needs to go out the window. Let the no huddle continue and let the ball stay in the hands of Big Ben. 2 (b). Catch the Damn Ball. There isn’t one Steelers’ receiver to whom this doesn’t apply. From Dionate Johnson to Eric Ebron, ALL of the men catching the ball need to re-focus. Catching the ball has to be the top priority. Too often the receivers are looking upfield before they even catch the ball thus resulting in drops. The results aren’t difficult to understand. Drops can often be as ugly as tackles for loss or runs that go nowhere but they can take on an ugliness of their own if they happen when the receiver is all alone or undefended. I’m betting Steelers’ WR Coach Ike Hilliard was emphasizing this over the last few days. If he hasn’t he should be!
3. Make Alex Smith Beat You. The return of Alex Smith to game action is nothing short of a miracle after the injury and difficult recovery he’s suffered through. His experience and poise have helped stabilize the WFT offense. After watching him play this season, I don’t see the same mobility he had before and unlike his days in Kansas City, I don’t see the wealth of talent around him either. Both Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin are two guys whoever that could immediately make impacts on this game if the Steelers aren’t careful. With Stephon Tuitt back, the Steelers need to pressure Smith up the middle and force him to get unsettled in the pocket. He’s never been one to take deep shots but the Steelers don’t want to give him time for that anyway.
Prediction: As we’ve already seen and heard, the defense is not taking the loss of Bud Dupree well. They will need to get past that and focus on the task at hand. Offensively, the Steelers have to be desperate to put that nightmare from Wednesday behind them. The dropped balls, the awful Red Zone execution, you name it. With Ben Roethlisberger listed as ‘questionable’ for this game, my concern grows tremendously for this game. That said, I think they find a way to get it done against a really good Washington defense.
Steelers 24 WFT 14
Season Prediction Record: 10-1