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QB Roethlisberger apologizes for Haley comments

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QB Roethlisberger apologizes for Haley comments

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ben Roethlisberger doesn't think he and Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley need to be best friends to co-exist.

The quarterback, however, also knows he can't start calling Haley out when things don't go as planned, no matter how bothered the Steelers captain may get by the playcalling

It's why Roethlisberger apologized to Haley, coach Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney II after making pointed remarks about the direction of the offense following a 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas on Sunday.

``I let my frustrations jump out after a game, I don't usually do that,'' Roethlisberger said. ``Usually, I keep it under control. I was just frustrated with myself and I'll be better at that.''

Roethlisberger completed 24 of 40 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas but also threw a critical interception on the second play of overtime that set up the game-winning field goal. Afterward he expressed disappointment in Haley's decision to stay away from the ``no-huddle'' offense. And he wondered why Haley didn't feature tight end Heath Miller, who had six receptions for 85 yards in the first half and just one catch for seven yards in the second.

Looking back, Roethlisberger - who took full responsibility for the loss - figures he probably should have just kept quiet.

``We do have a lot of talks behind closed doors about things, about plays, play calling,'' he said. ``If I'm doing something that's not right on the field, we have talks about everything.''

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday his franchise quarterback and Haley are on the same page. Roethlisberger agreed but allowed that doesn't mean they're on the same sentence.

``There are going to be times when you just don't see eye-to-eye,'' he said. ``There are times when I don't see eye-to-eye with Coach Tomlin. But that doesn't mean anything, I don't think.''

There have been similar issues in the past with former offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians, disagreements that were overshadowed by winning.

That's not happening this season. The Steelers (7-7) have dropped four of their last five and need to win their final two games against Cincinnati (8-6) and Cleveland (5-9) to reach the playoffs.

It's not exactly the position Pittsburgh expected to be in after a four-game winning streak pushed them to 6-3. Yet things haven't quite been the same since a 16-13 overtime win against Kansas City on Nov. 12. Roethlisberger went down with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib that sidelined him for three weeks and he hasn't been quite the same player in his return.

Roethlisberger was completing nearly 70 percent of his passes going into the game against the Chiefs. Over his last 2 1/2 games, his completion percentage has dipped to just 55 percent (55 of 100) as defenses have become more aggressive at pressing Pittsburgh's fast but somewhat undersized wide receivers at the line of scrimmage hoping to upset Haley's short-passing game.

While Roethlisberger's yardage totals have been OK thanks to an uptick in throws down the field, the efficient rhythm the Steelers played with during the first half of the season has all but disappeared.

``I think maybe it started in Kansas City where they had a little bit of success, where they got in our face a little bit and disrupted the timing of our routes,'' Miller said. ``We've seen that in some form or variation since then.''

The Steelers will almost certainly see more of it on Sunday against Cincinnati's physical secondary led by cornerbacks Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Nate Clements.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace says the key is simply winning more battles at the line of scrimmage, though a running game with a bit of a pulse and a defense that gave the offense short fields would help.

Though the Steelers are first in the NFL in yards allowed, they're 27th in takeaways with 15. As a result, just seven of Pittsburgh's 58 scoring drives this season have started on the other side of midfield. Opponents, meanwhile, have started 14 of 56 scoring drives in Steelers territory.

The lack of turnovers and splash plays on special teams have led to some pretty long fields for Roethlisberger and company, fields that have gotten even longer as the running game has halted.

Running back Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 122 yards in a 24-17 win at Cincinnati on Oct. 21. He has 122 yards combined in Pittsburgh's last four games, three of which he served as the starter.

Dwyer is still listed as the starter and it appears unlikely the Steelers would turn to veteran Rashard Mendenhall, who returned to practice on Wednesday after serving a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

Mendenhall declined to talk about why he failed to show up at Heinz Field for a game against San Diego two weeks ago after the Steelers decided to make him inactive, though Roethlisberger isn't quite ready to call Mendenhall's tenure over.

``He's a pretty darn good football player,'' Roethlisberger said. ``If he can help this team win football games, we'll take it.''

And the Steelers insist they're past the part of the season where style points matter. The offense is just 20th in the league in points scored (21.6) and is averaging 30 yards less per game than it was last year, leading the front office to not renew Arians' contract and hire the sometimes combustible Haley instead.

The promised fireworks have not ensued, though even if things were going smoothly, Wallace says it's not like the offense would suddenly start lighting up scoreboards anyway.

``We've never just won on a weekly basis, win by 30-40 points,'' Wallace said. ``We win by a touchdown or a field goal (and) just made the plays when they count. I think this year we haven't been making as many critical plays when they count ... but we've still got a shot.''

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10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

10 Questions in 10 Days: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No rookie draft pick excited the Redskins fan base like Derrius Guice since Robert Griffin III came to Washington back in 2012. That's a fact. 

Guice slipped during the draft to near the end of the second round, a position much too late for a player with his talent. Rumors emerged that he had character issues, but in the months since April's selection, they seem unfounded. In quick time, Guice has emerged as a Redskins fan favorite and has performed plenty of charitable acts.

So, moving past the erroneous off-field questions, it's time to manage expectations for what Guice can do on the field. 

DJ Swearinger recently said he expects Guice to make the Pro Bowl and rush for more than 1,000 yards. As a rookie. (Listen here)

That's not unheard of, last year rookie Kareem Hunt led the NFL in rush yards. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott did the same thing. Rookie running backs can step in and produce right away in the NFL, unlike some positions that usually bring more of a learning curve. 

Can Guice do that?

The first and most important questions will be health and durability. Guice dealt with lingering knee injuries last year at LSU, and the Redskins will need him fully healthy. A 1,000-yard season is not unrealistic if Guice plays a full 16-game season. It would require rushing for about 65 yards-per-game. 

The bigger key is opportunities. 

How many carries will Guice log in 2018? Early on in the season, Guice might still be learning pass protection in the Redskins scheme, and Jay Gruden will not tolerate missed assignments that result in big hits on QB Alex Smith.

If Guice can lock in on blitz pickup, 200 carries seems reasonable. Remember that Chris Thompson will still be a featured part of the Redskins offense, and Rob Kelley will get chances too. 

Last season, Samaje Perine led all rushers with 175 carries. He didn't do much with the chances, averaging just 3.4 yards-per-carry. Kelley had 62 carries before injuries shut his season down after parts of seven games. 

Combine Perine and Kelley's carries, and then things start to get interesting. With 230 carries, at an average of 4 yards a pop, Guice starts to approach 1,000 yards.

One problem with extrapolating too much data from last season is the crazy amount of variables. Late in the year, with Perine largely ineffective and a very beat up offensive line, the Redskins simply couldn't produce on the ground. In their last five games of 2017, the Redskins never rushed for more than 100 yards. They averaged just 60 yards-per-game on the ground during that stretch, including a season low 31 rush yards against Arizona in December. 

The line can't be that beat up again, right?

Guice has to be able to deliver more than Perine, right?

If the answers to those questions are yes, then a 1,000-yard season seems possible for Guice in 2018. 

One misnomer from the Redskins 2017 campaign emerged that Washington simply did not run the ball well or enough. In fact, early in the year when the Redskins looked like a possible playoff team, they ran the ball quite well. In three of the first four games, Washington went over 100 yards on the ground, including 229 rush yards in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Guice might get to 1,000 yards in 2018. It's no sure thing, and there are plenty of variables, but it's possible. That hasn't happened in Washington since Alfred Morris, and would be a very welcome sight. 

The rookie runner has invigorated the Redskins faithful, and that's before he even steps on the field. If Guice can produce, the fans will go crazy.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins and leadership, D-line potential

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 21, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.

How the addition of Alexander affects the Redskins' DB depth chart—Adonis Alexander was brought into the NFL about a week and a half ago and in five days he’ll be on the practice field in Richmond. How much will missing OTAs and minicamp hurt him in comparison to, say, his former Hokie teammate Greg Stroman? I think that the plan is for this to be a “redshirt” year for Alexander to learn. But that was supposed to be the plan for Josh Harvey-Clemons and Chase Roullier last year and both ended up playing key snaps. 

Can the Redskins defensive line live up to its potential? Many NFL fans don’t appreciate the value of having a good defensive line. Redskins fans are not in that group because they have seen what you get when you try to build a defensive line with over-the-hill veteran free agents, low draft picks, and undrafted players. Fans will value the talent, youth, and depth on the 2018 D-line.  

10 Questions in 10 days: LB depth chart—This is another area where the Redskins have not invested much in recent seasons. At least this year they stepped up and re-signed starters Mason Foster and Zach Brown. They are the present. Are Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Harvey-Clemons the future? 

The pass rush must continue to be a strength for the Redskins—With the picture at the cornerback position is somewhat murky right now, the pass rush will be critical, especially in the early going. The outside linebackers lost a key reserve, putting the burden on Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan to continue to get pressure on Ryan Anderson to take a leap forward in his second season. 

Tweet of the week

Well, this tweet did sort of stir things up as did some of the things that Cousins said in an article by Dan Pompei on the Bleacher Report. The thing about Twitter is that there is no room for nuance. I was labeled a Kirk “hater” by some. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. On multiple occasions, I urged the team to sign him long term and highlighted the positive aspects of his play. 

But this thing about not having a “platform” to lead always struck me as a cop-out. Cousins talked about it during some press conferences while he was here. The length of your contract should not prevent you from embracing a leadership role. You’re getting paid to lead, just do it. Few in leadership positions in business or in the military know where they will be a year from now. They embrace the role while they have it and Cousins should have done the same. 

The fact that I don’t like this one aspect of Cousins doesn’t mean that I don’t like him overall. He’s a good quarterback and I think he will have success with the Vikings. I think that the price got to be too much for the Redskins and the decision to move on to Alex Smith was sound or at least the best they could do after it became apparent that he was not going to sign here. But it’s not all one or the other. It is possible to see the positive and negative of Cousins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline

Mike Sellers, whose seven receiving touchdowns in 2005 were the most by a Redskins running back since the merger, was born on this date in 1975.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 5
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 19
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 42

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 50 days. 

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