1. Will Moss and Samuels play?
Our best guess is that they will. Samuels practiced all week so that's a good sign, though he also practiced before the Detroit game and sat out. But with time off upcoming, we're guessing he'll give it a go. He also knows his importance to team in this game. The Redskins would suffer greatly with Stephon Heyer at LT against this front. As for Moss, he was able to run the other day. He's been more cautious in recent years about not overdoing it, but, again with time off – and the fact that it would leave Washington with just three receivers –suggests to us that he'll at least try.
2.Will the Redskins be looking ahead to the time off?
Maybe a little, but I don't think this will be an issue. I never thought they looked past the Rams, Browns or Lions, either. I just think this is who they are. You can overlook one team, but not three. Considering the number of veterans they have, the focus should be there. If this were a young team I would be more worried about this issue.
3. Is this a statement game for Washington?
Many think so and if they win it says an awful lot about them. But if the Redskins lose a close game does that mean they're a fluke? Of course not. They've already won on the road at Dallas – with Tony Romo -- and Philly; what more of a statement do people want? If they get blown out tonight, that's quite a statement. But I can't see that happening. This is not college where one game reveals all about a team. That's the beauty of the NFL.
4. Can Clinton Portis run against this defense?
It will be difficult. Pittsburgh is the best run defense Washington has seen this season. The Steelers have allowed just three 100-yard rushers in the past 73 games. Opposing backs average 2.8 yards per carry. If Portis can manage 80 yards on the ground that's more impressive than 126 against Detroit.
5. Why are the Steelers so good against the run?
They have fast, physical linebackers and that makes a huge difference. But no 3-4 front excels against the run without a good nose tackle and Casey Hampton sets the tone up front. Also, DE Aaron Smith is fantastic against the run. And SS Troy Polamalu, when he sets up in the box, is another major factor. This group has played together a while and it shows. Guys get to the right spots, a prerequisite to stopping the run.
6. What must Washington do offensively to win?
Be patient, hold onto the ball and play smart. Accept the fact that there will be drives that generate no points and maybe not a lot of yardage. The key will be to win the field position battle; punts are OK tonight. Here's another thing: get the ball to Chris Cooley in the red zone. That's a must.
7. What else?
Protect Jason Campbell. The Steelers' pass rush is excellent, with outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison already combining for 16 sacks. The Redskins will struggle to reach that total as a team. Campbell has fumbled three times in the past three games and lost one. If the pocket collapses too much, it'll be hard to imagine him going another game without a pick. Defenders have dropped picks the past two games; he's due. It's simply too much to ask of him to continue this streak. The good thing is that Campbell has not been protecting the streak. If they can give Campbell time, and the running game is at least effective, then the Steelers can be beaten deep.
8. What are the concerns about Pittsburgh's offense?
With Willie Parker and Santonio Holmes likely back tonight, the Steelers will have their playmakers. They have a solid receiving group and Holmes and Nate Washington provide deep threats. They will test Washington long. Hines Ward is a terrific possession receiver, one of the best in the game.
9. What must they do against this offense?
It's obvious; get to Ben Roethlisberger like other teams have. The Steelers have new guards this season so they're susceptible up the middle. Roethlisberger will hold onto the ball to let plays develop down field. But they also have to contain Roethlisberger in the pocket. He's not going to scramble for a lot of yards, but his size enables him to get outside and that's when he often hits big plays.
10. Will the Redskins win?
Washington has limped its way to the halfway point and could easily be on a three-game losing streak. Of course, the Redskins aren't on such a streak so that's irrelevant. But they are tired. Playing a physical team like Pittsburgh won't help. The Steelers front will provide too many problems for Washington's offense. And the inability of Washington's D to so far provide a consistent rush will prove troublesome tonight. We're anticipating a couple turnovers and a Steelers win. Steelers 17, Redskins 14.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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