Redskins

Steelers right back in mix after drubbing Redskins

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Steelers right back in mix after drubbing Redskins

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ben Roethlisberger talks constantly about the weapons at his disposal.

Mike Wallace. Antonio Brown. Heath Miller. Jerricho Cotchery. Whatever running back happens to be healthy during a given week.

So of course the first touchdown pass the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback threw during Sunday's 27-12 win over the Washington Redskins went to little-used tight end Leonard Pope. And the third went to fullback Will Johnson, a little 1-yard flip in which Johnson seemed to be surprised the ball was heading in his general direction.

``I was kind of yelling, `turn around, you're open,''' Roethlisberger said.

Johnson's score capped a surprisingly easy victory for the Steelers (4-3), who looked very much like a team starting to round into form midway through the season. The defense suffocated Washington's vibrant offense while the offense continued to work with its typical efficiency.

Pittsburgh held the ball for more than 33 minutes for the sixth time in seven games on a day Jonathan Dwyer became the first Steelers running back since Willie Parker in 2008 to top 100 yards in consecutive games.

This is the same team that struggled to put away underachieving Philadelphia at home and lost on the road to the likes of Oakland and Tennessee?

``We're going in the right direction,'' offensive tackle Max Starks said. ``We stopped digging a hole for ourselves. Now we can start laying a foundation.''

It's one that starts where it always seems to start in Pittsburgh, with the defense. The Steelers endured stinging criticism after letting three second-half leads evaporate. They defended coordinator Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme and insisted the problem wasn't the calls but the execution.

After convincing victories over two explosive teams in Cincinnati and Washington, it looks like they were right. The Bengals managed just 185 yards of total offense while Washington had a season-low 255. For all the concern bubbling three weeks ago, the Steelers are second in the NFL in yards allowed as the season nears its midway point.

``We still got that `3' in the column there, but we're improving,'' linebacker Larry Foote said. ``We know it's a long season. It's always long for us. We ain't saying we're there yet.''

Not with the defending Super Bowl champions looming.

Pittsburgh travels to New York next week to face the Giants (6-2), though it suddenly doesn't look as daunting a task as it did earlier this month after the Steelers pushed around Washington. The Redskins dropped 10 passes, many of the drops coming as a Pittsburgh defender closed in.

``The Steelers, we're going to run and hit,'' Foote said. ``Our safeties are going to hit. Our (defensive backs) are going to hit. You don't see that in a lot of places with the corners coming up and hitting. That's what makes this a special place.''

One that prides itself on maintaining a certain standard regardless of who is on the field. When starting running back Rashard Mendenhall and top backup Isaac Redman went out with injuries while losing to the Titans on Oct. 12, Pittsburgh turned to third-stringer Dwyer.

He's hardly played like a benchwarmer. Legs churning constantly, Dwyer has run for 229 yards over the last two weeks and is averaging a healthy 5.2 yards per carry, seventh-best in the league and ahead of guys like Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Chris Johnson.

``He's answered the call and taken advantage of the opportunity and that's what we expect from all our young people,'' coach Mike Tomlin said of Dwyer. ``This guy went over 1,500 yards in his last two years at Georgia Tech. He was ACC Player of the Year. He's not foreign to running the football.''

Dwyer isn't quite ready to plead for more playing time, simply entrench himself as an NFL player. He's done that with ease, giving the Steelers some needed balance to take some of the pressure off Roethlisberger.

The offensive line has done its part too. The quarterback has been sacked just 13 times this season despite playing behind a shuffled unit that includes rookie right tackle Mike Adams. Throw in a passing scheme that has limited the number of hits Roethlisberger takes and the Steelers are building at the right time.

``This is the part of the season where you want to be consistent and get better and start to stack wins,'' wide receiver Antonio Brown said. ``This is where it all that starts.''

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NOTES: The Steelers re-instated rookie NT Alameda Ta'amu on Monday. The team suspended him without pay two weeks ago following an incident with police on the city's South Side neighborhood in the early hours of Oct. 14. Ta'amu still faces three felony counts - fleeing police, aggravated assault and aggravated assault by vehicle - among a dozen other charges.

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Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

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NBC Sports Washington

Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

I haven’t felt this way since my father passed last April. I’m not comparing the two, at all, but there were some similarities.

Rich Tandler had life experience. Few people accomplish what he did; total life reinvention. 

Think about that. 

After raising his two successful children and a lifetime in the restaurant business, Tandler created a blog. That blog became big enough to eventually become a full-time job, and over time, put him on television and send him all over the world. 

That’s wild. 

We get so caught up in the “startups” and “disruptors” from Silicon Valley that we missed a true internet success story in Rich Tandler. Our world has become extra cynical. The loudest snark wins, especially on the internet. 

Tandler didn’t trade in those currencies. 

He provided good, quality information. He provided insight and analysis from six decades of obsessing over a football team. 

And fans loved him for it. 

The outpouring from folks that read "Need to Know" or listened to the podcast has been incredible. I’ve been flooded with messages from people, and one overwhelming response is that while they didn’t really know Tandler, they feel like they did.

Well, I was lucky to know him pretty well. And his persona on air was the same way off air. 

Tandler helped me a in a lot of ways. I can be impulsive and have a temper, Tandler would calm me down. Whenever I had something important to say, news to break or a sharp angle of criticism, I would run it by Tandler first. Sometimes, maybe often, I would say too much, and he would reign me in. 

Tandler loved pointing out mistakes. If the universe gave honorary degrees for pointing out minor math errors in salary cap blog posts, Tandler would have a Ph.D. 

He was smart and he was sharp. Good natured but feisty. 

He could dish it out plenty in a media room full of alphas. And he literally dished it out; Tandler controlled all the plastic utensils and paper plates that every media member used at Redskins Park. When we were running low on forks, Tandler would put out some not too subtle calls to action. 

I think for a while he considered the podcast an annoyance, but somewhere along the way, we had a breakthrough. He realized its potential, and everywhere we went, listeners came up and told us how much they enjoyed it. 

That made an impact on RT. And seemingly overnight, he was all in. That’s when things really started to gain steam. Wherever I am in my career, Tandler played a huge role in it. 

But that kind of doesn’t matter now. We will keep the pod going but it will never be the same. Not better, not worse, but way, way different. Same thing with writing and TV. The show will go on, but it won't be the same. It will never be the same. 

In the hours since I learned of Tandler’s passing, I’ve done some reading. I drank a bunch. And I ended up landing on some YouTube videos. 

The one I kept going back to was Jimmy V’s famous ESPY speech. Before he died, Jimmy V implored us all to think, laugh and cry every day, and that would lead to a good, full life. 

If there was ever a dude that laughed, it was Rich Tandler. 

His belly laugh was contagious, and his wit was superior. There were the wacky Tandler’s Got Jokes, and the sly one liners about players, plays and our road antics. 

It wasn’t all laughter either. Tandler was smart as hell, and he was always thinking about new ways to present content for Redskins fans. 

Seriously, our organization employs an army of young and talented digital-first thinkers. And Tandler generated more web traffic than all of them. He constantly tried to figure out why people would read something, or the optimal time for us to drop a new podcast. 

Where I’m an idea guy, Tandler was all execution. I’m a terrible planner and constantly late. Tandler would be on time and busting my chops about our lack of schedule. It’s just how we operated. 

As for crying, Tandler didn't do it much. I did see him tear up from laughing a few times, and once because it was real windy when we were taping a segment and something got in his eye. 

I’m not much of a crier either. I’m glad that Jimmy V was, but it’s just not me. 

Thinking about Tandler though in the last 36 hours, there have been some truly hard moments. He was kind and gracious. A true gentleman. 

He never took personal shots at the team we cover, or their front office. Plenty do. He would certainly say when things were bad, and say it loudly. He was binary in a world full of context. 

He was a good dude. He was my coworker, my partner and my friend. 

And damn if it isn’t getting dusty in here all of a sudden. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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