Steelers say Washington is bigger challenge than 4-7 record

Preview of challenge Monday afternoon
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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Steelers guard David DeCastro admitted they weren’t where they needed to be leading up to and during the Ravens game due to all of the changes in the schedule and other 2020 factors. Saying there is a ‘human nature component’ to football where you play up and down.

However, DeCastro said they will be ready and respect the 4-7 Washington team at Heinz Field later this afternoon.

“I’m confused at what their record is watching them play defense,” DeCastro said.

“They’re a talented bunch,” said head coach Mike Tomlin.  “Man, it starts up front for them. They have a bunch of high-round draft picks and talented young ones that provide a wave that others ride.”

It’s that defense that leads Washington, 7th in the league in points allowed and 3rd in the NFC.

“I can’t say enough about their edge presence with their talented edge rushers, Chase Young being a top draft pick from this draft,” Tomlin said. “They have quality Alabama guys on the interior that really wreak havoc and are inter-changeable. They’re opportunistic on the backend much like defenses that Coach Rivera and Coach Del Rio have been a part of in the past. They’re fundamentalists in nature. They do a great job of mixing zones and mans.”

Tomlin said they are gap sound and good against the run while second only in the Steelers in the NFL with 36 sacks.

“There is tremendous talent across the board, all first rounders, all highly skilled guys,” DeCastro said.  “We’ve seen that kind of look, that structure before but the difference is the personality they bring behind it.  They have tremendous players, one of the best, if not the best, we’ve faced this year.  That’s what makes it tough, not the structure, but the players.”

“They’re fundamentalists in what they do,” Tomlin said.  “They’re thoughtful.
They’re small-menued and big understanding.  They play extremely fast.”

That has allowed for double-digits in interceptions and forced fumbles, and got Ben Roethlisberger’s attention right after Wednesday’s game.  The QB says he normally reviews that game after, but put the kids to bed and immediately started watching Washington film.

“I went right back to the office,” said offensive coordinator Randy Fichter of Wednesday night.  “I watched the game.  I started a little bit more Washington stuff.  I was about ready to say ‘I’m tired, I’m going to go’. All of a sudden, I get a text message from Ben, and he’s talking about 23, their right corner.  He’s talking about wow 93 and 99 up front.  He’s already been going through the tape. He’s getting suggestions, and he’s firing stuff.  We just finished the install meeting, and I took a couple of his suggestions and made sure we put them in.
He’s been really good.”

Washington’s offense led by the feel-good story of the NFL season.  Starting the season with first round pick Dwayne Haskins, they changed to Kyle Allen and then after injury left with 36-year-old Alex Smith.  It appeared his career was over after a gruesome knee injury as some questioned if he would walk again.

“When you really educate yourself to the story of his rehabilitation and him fighting back from that injury, there’s something to be learned from it,” Tomlin said.  “It’s something to really respect not only to those of us in the football world but all of us.  He’s a champion in a lot of ways.”

Smith’s numbers don’t jump out, 107-155 for 1067yds, three touchdowns and five interceptions.  Washington is has won its last two and Smith has led them to 37 second half points.

The man battling with Roethlisberger to be Comeback Player of the Year, Smith has a three-headed backfield to help their offense and they are fourth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns.  They also have one of the most under-publicized wideouts in the game.

“Can’t say enough about an emerging, young receiving corps they have led by [Terry] McLaurin out of Ohio State in his second year who is, man, showing he has it all really,” Tomlin said.  “He’s good after the catch.  He’s got good top-end speed.  He makes the combat catch.  He’s strong.  He’s a tough tackle.”

The Ohio State star is seventh in catches for first down, fifth in the NFL in receiving yards, second in catches over 20 yards.  McLaurin also has twice as many receptions as any other Washington receiver.

Steelers WR coach Ike Hilliard worked with that group in Washington last year and maybe he can help defensive coordinator Keith Butler.

“This is a good football team,” Butler said.  “This a very, very big challenge for us. They run the ball well. We’re going to have to stop the run, and we’re going to have to pressure the quarterback as much as we can.”

“Everyone says, ‘Well shoot, they’re 4-7 and blah, blah, blah. Or shoot, you should’ve beat the stew out of Baltimore’.  Nobody beats the stew out of nobody in the National Football League. That’s the reason the National Football League is the NFL.  That’s what makes it the NFL.  For us, we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to play these guys.  This is going to be a challenge for us, and we look forward to it.”