RGIII's otherworldly skills a challenge for Steelers
Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown remembers the Washington Redskins' revolutionary rookie when he was known simply as Robert Griffin III, not RGIII.
It was two years ago, and the RGIII phenomenon — Steelers linebacker Larry Foote's description — had yet to emerge.
“I wouldn't have thought he would be this big in the NFL, come in and impact the game like he is,” Brown said Wednesday as the Steelers began preparing for the kind of quarterback they're never faced. “After I left college, he started emerging as the man.”
Ike Taylor offered a similar description of a quarterback who has one of the NFL's strongest passing arms and the speed and power of an elite running back.
“RGIII pretty much makes the world go ' round,” Taylor said.
If nothing else, Griffin is causing heads to spin in the Steelers' meeting rooms.
“Just the highlights Mike Tomlin showed us woke you up,” Foote said. “You come in Wednesday, dragging a little bit, as soon as he popped those highlights in there, everybody woke up, sat up and (started) getting ready for him.”
The Steelers are accustomed to quarterbacks who can make any throw, such as Tom Brady, or running quarterbacks such as Michael Vick and Tim Tebow, both of whom they've faced this season. But Griffin, in only seven NFL games, already has a 323-yard passing game and a 138-yard rushing game.
Griffin is completing more than 70 percent of his passes and owns the Redskins' rookie quarterback rushing record with 468 yards. Yet his passing skills are drawing the most praise from the Steelers' defensive regulars.
“Normally we're going against a rookie quarterback, I wouldn't even be here sweating. I'd be like, ‘Piece of cake,' ” Foote said. “But this guy, he presents some challenges.”
When Brown's Texas Longhorns took on Baylor two years ago, Griffin ran for only 17 yards on 16 carries. But Tomlin said the Redskins are designing option plays that perfectly fit his running skills. And, Brown said, “He's got some professional blockers and some professional wide receivers that make him look even better than he was in college.”
The Redskins' zone blocking, long favored by coach Mike Shanahan, also plays to Griffin's strengths. The offensive linemen flow to the left or right and block whatever is in their way rather than manning up on a defensive player.
“The quarterback is good, but the scheme they run is a great scheme,” Casey Hampton said. “If you have linemen who are disciplined and can get out and run and get the defense running sideways, they can be successful. Knock you off the ball, be more physical than you are, that's not their type of game.”
Tebow's unorthodox style so confused the Steelers during an AFC wild-card game last season that the Broncos pulled off a 29-23 upset win. Multiple players said Griffin is more of a handful than Tebow because he throws better.
“Time will tell with RGIII but from what we've seen recently, just over the last couple of weeks, he's going to be a special quarterback,” Taylor said. “He's looking to pass first then run. He'll only run when he has to. And when he does run, you see him scoring touchdowns.”
The Steelers saw plenty of that during their video session.
“We just have a very dynamic offense,” Griffin said. “Every week coaches install some new things to keep defenses off balance. It's my job to go out there and do something else when defenses figure it out.”
They haven't yet. Now the Steelers get their chance.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.