Steelers-Redskins observations

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Before starting to write for tomorrow’s paper off of Jim Zorn’s 11 a.m. press conference today, here are some observations after watching the first half of Steelers-Redskins.

OFFENSE

*The distance of Jason Campbell’s 10 passes: 48 yards, behind line, 13 yards, 10 yards, 44 yards, behind line and 3 yards. The only completion was the 10-yard throw to TE Chris Cooley.

*On the opening drive, Cooley lined up wide right, slot right, tight end and fullback. If the coaches trust Fred Davis to be on the field, it gives them a lot more freedom in moving Cooley around to create mismatches.

*During the 15-play opening drive, Zorn mixed up his personnel groups. The most popular was two-receiver (six plays). He had two tight ends on the field for three plays.

*The play gained only 2 yards by Portis, but FB Mike Sellers’ hammered LB Lawrence Timmons with a pancake block. On the play, Portis was hit 3 yards behind the line but still managed a small gain.

*Against Campbell, the Steelers rushed 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4 and 4 on his eight dropbacks.

*Zorn called two screens but neither panned out. Portis was caught up with a defender the first time and then the Steelers snuffed out the play to Betts. Campbell threw away both times.

*The second-team offensive line was LT Jeremy Bridges, LG Ruben Riley, C Will Montgomery, RG Chad Rinehart and RT D’Anthony Batiste. LG Edwin Williams replaced Riley in the fourth quarter.

*RB Ladell Betts played a few third downs before leaving with an oblique injury. But don’t read too much into the bally-hoo about Betts getting an increased role this year. It won’t change a bit. Here are the playing time totals for his 13 games in 2008: 15, 20, 15, 27, 22, 14, 11, 10, 22, 25, 4, 25 and 14 snaps.

DEFENSE

*I’ve got DT Albert Haynesworth playing 11 snaps (including one negated by a penalty). He played 10 snaps at right defensive tackle and one at right defensive end with Brian Orakpo at RDT. That could be a productive alignment.

*DE Andre Carter drew a holding penalty by Max Starks but still managed to bat down Charlie Batch’s pass on Pittsburgh’s first play.

*Coordinator Greg Blache called an aggressive game when the starters were in. He rushed six players on two snaps and on one play, rushed three while DT Cornelius Griffin dropped into coverage.

*Late in the second quarter, the Redskins started a series with six defensive backs on the field — three corners and three safeties.

*The Redskins are still playing too soft in coverage. Even when Pittsburgh was inside the red zone, S LaRon Landry was playing 12-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That leaves all of the underneath stuff open.

*Landry had a tough night, led by probably taking the wrong angle on Willie Parker’s touchdown run.

*The Steelers took it easy on CB Justin Tryon. The only time they went after him in the first half, the receiver dropped the pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS

*First kickoff return: Cartwright, Mason, Fincher, Blades, Doughty, McIntosh, Moore, Yoder, Sellers, Alexander and Jackson.

*First kickoff coverage: Suisham, Mitchell, Moore, Young, Davis, Wilson, Sellers, Blades, Doughty, Tryon and Eloi.

*First punt coverage: Smith, Albright, Barnes, Landry, Blades, Tryon, Moore, Horton, Sellers, Yoder and Fincher.

*First punt return: D. Thomas, Hall, Eloi, Moore, Doughty, Sellers, Davis, Cartwright, Smoot, Landry. Sorry, couldn’t get the 11th guy.

*First field goal: Suisham, Smith, Albright, Sellers, Davis, Dockery, Wilson, Yoder, A. Montgomery, Alexander and Bridges.

Analysis: On the four major special teams, the Redskins would like to have 3-4 core guys to replace James Thrash and Khary Campbell. Playing three of the teams are LB H.B. Blades, S Kareem Moore and FB Mike Sellers.

— Ryan O’Halloran

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Ryan O'Halloran

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