Redskins RB Clinton Portis vs. Steelers run defense
The NFL stat sheet is alarming when you note that Portis leads the NFL in rushing with 944 yards and carries with 187. He is averaging about five yards per carry and 118 per game, and he has seven touchdowns, but the Steelers defense is as stout against the run as any team in the NFL. It is giving up an average of only 71.6 rush yards per game (third). The unit received a boost with the return of defensive end Brett Keisel and nose tackle Casey Hampton from injuries. Strong safety Troy Polamalu and his 38 tackles are a big reason why the Steelers are near the top. If Portis gets going early, the Steelers will have to play Polamalu closer to the line of scrimmage, which would open up the middle of the field for tight end Chris Cooley.
Steelers WR Hines Ward vs. Redskins CB Carlos Rogers
With cornerback Shawn Springs (calf) out for the fifth time this season, it again falls on Rogers to cover the opponent’s top receiver. Last week, he held the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson in check (other than his late touchdown). He had help, though – Detroit didn’t look for Johnson enough. Rogers has one interception and 18 pass breakups. Ward leads the Steelers with 31 catches and five touchdowns. Rogers could also see time playing against wideout Santonio Holmes, but this matchup might be more beneficial for Washington.
Redskins QB Jason Campbell vs. Steelers pass defense
No one fools and confuses young quarterbacks better than Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, but he is faced with an interesting challenge this week. Campbell is the only one among the top 35 quarterbacks in the NFL who has not thrown an interception. His passer rating is fifth (100.5), and he has completed 66.1 percent of his passes (eighth), with an average of 219.2 yards per game (17th). Head coach Jim Zorn has taught Campbell well, especially in the art of taking care of the football. Free safety Ryan Clark has a right shoulder dislocation and is doubtful for this game. The loss of Clark would mean the team will be without two starters in the secondary; cornerback Bryant McFadden (broken arm) is out another four weeks.
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