Offensive line overpowers Redskins
On a cool, rainy afternoon, the Steelers manufactured a near-perfect blend of offensive balance in winning back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 27-12 conquest of the Washington Redskins at Heinz Field.
Jonathan Dwyer, who became the first Steelers back to record consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Willie Parker in 2008, high-stepped over and around Washington's leg-weary defense. Receiver Mike Wallace rediscovered his hands with a game-high seven receptions.
While Dwyer and Wallace dazzled amid the spotlight, the offensive line did the grunt work to power an efficient offense that scored on five of its first six possessions.
The offensive front, anchored by All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, outmuscled the Redskins in the trenches as Dwyer carved out 107 rushing yards. The Steelers kept things simple by feeding Dwyer the ball between tackles Max Starks and Mike Adams.
“They (offensive line) made my job easier,” Dwyer said. “I was just going off on how they were playing, and they were playing physical. So, I brought my physicality to the game as well.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger barely got his jersey dirty as the offensive line kept him upright for the second game in a row. Only once did the Redskins put a glove on him.
“Everyone wants to jump on (the offensive line) when they're not playing good, but no one talks about them when they're playing great,” said Roethlisberger, who completed 24 of 33 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. “I'll keep giving them praise no matter what.
“They did such a good job of opening holes in the run game and protecting the pass game. Washington is a very confusing defense, so we prepared all week for certain looks, and we never got some of them.”
Starks said preparation was the key to victory. It helped, too, that for the first time this season the offensive line faced a defensive front similar to the Steelers, which helped determine that a man-zone blocking scheme would work best against Washington.
“The man zone stuff worked by keeping it in between the tight ends and not trying to cut outside every single time,” Starks said. “The way Dwyer runs and the way the line blocks is probably the best thing for this offense right now.”
For guard Ramon Foster, it was simply a matter of muscle.
“We won the one-on-one battles,” Foster said. “We're getting guys back, so we're playing well together as a unit. But it won't mean a thing if we can't do it next week (against the New York Giants).
“If we can keep the run game going and protect Ben, this is going to be the outcome every Sunday. We still left some points out there, but it's the best effort by the offensive line this season.”
Guard Willie Colon said the offensive line is attacking more than it did during the Steelers' 2-3 start. And that's giving Dwyer room to use his size and speed.
“(Dwyer) is just hitting it and he understands where he needs to be,” Colon said. “He's reading the blocks. It was good to see him use the stiff arm. It reminded me of the Bus (Jerome Bettis) a little bit.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.