PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Its gameday in Pittsburgh, and the Washington Football Team has an opportunity to pop some champagne bottles for the '72 Dolphins by ending the Pittsburgh Steelers bid for an undefeated season.
As game time quickly approaches, let's look at three keys to zero in on for a Washington win, and our latest "Locked on Washington Football Team" podcast.
1. Washington must run to stay out of third-and-long vs. Pittsburgh's pass rush.
In QB Alex Smith's three starts, Washington is 18-41 on third down, which is a 43.9% conversion rate.
However on third-and-7 or more in the last three games, they are just are 3-15.
If you're scoring at home, that means they are 15-26 on third-and-6 or less.
Get in third-and-long consistently against this pass rush, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and you can forget about any upset.
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2. How about some points on the opening drive and a quick start?
As you may know, Washington is the only team that hasn't scored on an opening drive in the NFL this year.
Even in the last two games (both wins), they have failed to get on the board. A four-play drive for 13 yards against the Bengals and a three-play drive ending in a sack for minus-4 yards.
They've run 65 offensive plays on first drives this year combined and racked up 231 net yards.
That's 3.55 yards per play and 21 yards on average per first offensive drive.
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In other words, their lack of production on opening drives is still very ... offensive.
3. Tackling in space:
Washington has missed 69 tackles this year, according to ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) with 10 credited to Landon Collins who is long gone.
Against a short rhythm offense that is designed to get the ball out of Ben Roethlisberger's hands quickly, Washington must strengthen up. Even if you take out Collins' numbers, they are missing about 5 or so per game.
Roethlisberger has the lowest time to throw average per NextGenStats in the NFL at 2.28, but that's not because the Steelers can't protect him. It's because they don't want him taking shots and getting injured.
If the Steelers catch the ball better than they did on Wednesday, Washington is going to have to be great in this area to not allow something small and quick to be big and back-breaking.
For more analysis, check out our 'Crossover' edition of the podcast with Chris Carter from "Locked on Steelers"
And from our daily Google News updates -- more keys are in here.
And a quick hit scene-setter: