By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — When defending Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins’ rookie sensation at quarterback, there really isn’t a past experience that the Pittsburgh Steelers can look to for guidance.
RG3, the moniker that along with his immense talent has made the player quite marketable, is as unique as he is skilled. Just ask Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who with his defensive staff has had to prepare to stop RG3 this week. The Steelers (3-3) face the Redskins (3-4) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.
“We’re talking about a guy that’s sixth in the NFC in rushing and completing 70 percent of his passes,” Tomlin said. “To this point, I think he’s writing his own script. … We’ve got our work cut out for us. We acknowledge he’s a top player.
“His unique skills probably reduce you some in what you’re capable of doing comfortably defensively. But at the same time, we can’t sit back and be passive. We’ve got to attack and play to our personality and, hopefully, reduce what he’s capable of doing, or at least minimize it.”
What RG3 has done is dominate the NFC. He has six rushing touchdowns, while running back Alfred Morris has five. And he is second to Morris (658 yards, 4.8 average) in rushing (468, 7.3). As a passer, RG3 has completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 1,601 yards and seven touchdowns with just three interceptions. He’s been sacked 15 times and has a QB rating at 101.8.
So, as Tomlin indicated, the Redskins’ opposition certainly hasn’t stopped him and in most cases has barely slowed him down. But the Steelers will try and likely will need to win a close game to do it, as the Redskins’ three victories were by 22 total points. And their four losses were by a total of 21 points.
“RG3, he is as advertised,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We just watched a little film on him (Wednesday) morning. … They’re doing some things with him that no other team does, as far as the option goes. We had a little taste of that (with Tebow) when we went to Denver last year (for the playoff game), but he’s as good and as fast as anyone out there.
“So, he’s going to be very tough to stop. When you’re playing an option team like this, everyone has a responsibility, and everyone has a job to do. And if everyone does their job, we should be OK. The last time I played against a team like this, I probably was in college. (BYU) played against Air Force, and they used to run the Winged-T. (So), college probably was my last reference.”
But even that isn’t an indication of what the Redskins are doing with RG3 this season, according to Tomlin. He ran from the pocket, primarily on broken plays, at Baylor. The Redskins clearly have designed running plays with the option, the pistol (short drop-back) attack, QB leads and draws.
If the Steelers can keep him in the pocket and force him to throw, their day could be easier. That’s relatively speaking, of course, because as cornerback Ike Taylor said: “They have RG3, and he makes the world go ’round.”
“Just seeing what he’s doing as a rookie, here in Week 7 and Week 8, he’s getting better every week,” Taylor said. “And he’s a double-threat with his running and passing. So, he really doesn’t look like a rookie, and I say that because of his demeanor. He’s very calm in the pocket. He doesn’t get rattled.
“You see guys blitzing, and he doesn’t let that bother him. He takes plays and rolls with them. He’s always looking to make a play, but won’t force it. … He’s more of a threat as a runner than our guy, but Ben is proven. Time will tell with RG3, but what he has shown on tape, it looks like he’s a special quarterback.”
So, what can the Steelers do to minimize RG3’s effectiveness? Can it be done?
“We just need to be gap sound and not get fooled by the misdirection that we’ll see from a D-line standpoint,” Steelers end Ziggy Hood said. “You have to stay square or you will get caught off, and they can gash you for a big play. We have to be certain of our responsibilities and be mindful of them, and if we can do that we should be successful this week.
“But RG3 is a dangerous quarterback, so we have to stay cool under pressure … keep containment on him, push the pocket, and if we can make the play we need to take it. We have to do our job up front first and foremost. And if we can’t get to him, somebody else needs to do it. But the biggest thing is to not let RG3 beat us. That’s the way I look at it.”
And it’s the best way for the Steelers to be successful this week.