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AFC North: Look out Ravens, here come the Steelers

The AFC North became a little tighter this weekend after the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to defeat the Washington Redskins. The current standings after the eighth week of the season has the Baltimore Ravens leading the division with a 5-2 record, one game in front of the Pittsburg Steelers at 4-3, two games in front of the Cincinnati Bengals at 3-4 and four games in front of last place Cleveland at 2-6.

The Ravens and Bengals had a bye week this week, while the Browns outlasted the San Diego Chargers in a defensive struggle 7-6. However, the big game in the division was the Steelers 27-12 win over the Redskins. The Steelers played nearly flawless football on Sunday, as the poor weather did not hamper their ability to execute on offense and shut down the Redskins offensive attack.

The Steelers defense was able to make Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback for the Redskins, look like a rookie and not the explosive player he is. Offensively Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback, had one of his best passing performances of the season.

The Steelers defense shut the door on Griffin III both through the air and on the ground. Griffin III was 16 for 34 on the day with only 177 yards and a single touchdown. He rushed for only eight yards on six carries. Prior to the game, Alfred Morris the running back for Washington was averaging more than 90 yards each game on the ground. On Sunday, he managed just 59 yards. The receiving corps for the Redskins was also shut down as no receiver had over 46 yards in the game.

Some poor play did come into effect to help the Steelers on the day. The Redskins receivers dropped 10 passes. The weather did hurt the offensive prowess of the Redskins, as the rain was indeed a factor in the dropped passes.

Roethlisberger was not affected by the rainy weather. The Steelers QB completed 24 of 33 passes on the day for 222 yards with three touchdowns. The offensive line finally gave Roethlisberger plenty of time as he was sacked only once and did not turn over the ball.

Roethlisberger’s completion rate and accuracy has been helped tremendously by the new short-yardage conservative passing game Todd Haley the new offensive coordinator has installed. This season he has only thrown three interceptions.

In this game, it helped the Pittsburgh offense that they were facing the league’s worst passing defense. Because they were able to pass, it opened their run game and the Steelers held on to the ball for long stretches at a time. For the game, the Steelers owned close to a 7-minute time of possession advantage.

The running game has become stronger in Pittsburgh as Jonathan Dwyer had his second consecutive 100 plus yard game with 107. What makes his two consecutive 100 yard rushing games even more impressive is he is the third running back, but the starter Rashard Mendenhall and his backup Isaac Redman both are out with injuries.

The offensive line has finally come around, the running game has improved tremendously and protection for Roethlisberger is near perfect. The defense also looked stronger shutting down the Redskins explosive offensive attack.

Look for the Steelers to contend in the second half of the season for the AFC North division title. With the way they are currently playing, they could go very deep into the AFC playoffs.

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