The Pittsburgh quarterbacks—Earl Morrall and Len Dawson—lack experience. Morrall is the best; if he enjoys a normal improvement over last season, he could be very good indeed. The receivers are good, with Jack McClairen, who led the East with 46 catches last season, the prime target for short passes. Jimmy Orr, a Ram castoff, looks good, but the Steelers need someone who can go down deep for the long ones. Ray Mathews, who plays end or slot back, fills that requirement but Mathews is out for part of the season with a broken foot.
The Steelers' running game is still a patchwork affair, with Buddy Parker, an astute and indefatigable trader, still hoping to put together a successful combination. Parker traded for the Rams' Tank Younger, an elderly but still strong fullback. Another trade—for Tom Tracy, the stumpy, thick-legged Detroit fullback—went awry when Tracy suffered a neck injury in the last exhibition game of the season. Billy Reynolds, a veteran from Cleveland, should help, but Parker's ground forces are thin.
With five deep backs who have speed, experience and the advantage of having worked as a unit for a couple of seasons, the Steelers were second only to the Browns in yards allowed in this department in 1957 and should be even better this year. Jack Butler led the Eastern Conference with 10 interceptions last season; his running mates specialized in knocking passes down. Dale Dodrill, one of the league's best linebackers, is a cat on pass defense. The Steelers have, in abundance, one of the rarest birds in pro football—the topnotch defensive halfback.
Some have accused Parker of being primarily a defensive coach. He may be. So is Paul Brown. The Steeler running defense, led by George Tarasovic, is strong on the first unit, with Dodrill the key.
Parker will probably have to depend on defense again this season, due in most part to the lack of a sound running game. If he turns up a surprise runner, the passing is good enough and the Steelers could improve on last year's 6-6 record.
COACH: JOE KUHARICH
1957 RECORD: W 5, L 6, T 1, 4TH
1958 EXHIBITIONS: W 3, L 3, T 0
With Eddie LeBaron, the only practicing magician left among pro quarterbacks, and Rudy Bukich and Ralph Guglielmi, the Redskins have as versatile a trio of quarterbacks as any team in the league, LeBaron, who is as hard to catch as a hummingbird, is not a great long passer. But he is crisp on short throws; Bukich can loft a ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist. The Redskin receivers are good, particularly Joe Walton, Dick James, Johnny Carson and Don Bosseler, the big fullback. LeBaron's ability to squirm away from tacklers adds to the time his receivers have to get clear. The Redskin blocking helps LeBaron survive.
The Redskin ground game is built around the thundering running of Bosseler, a 215-pound fullback with exceptional speed. Leo Elter, his understudy, is small for a fullback, but he has a water-bug quickness which sneaks him out of tacklers' arms. Mike Sommer, a Washington, D.C. boy who has played high school and college football in his home town, may stick with the team as a specialist in punt returns. The Washington running offense has size, speed and versatility.
The Redskins have the sine qua non of a good pass defense—experienced defensive halfbacks. Their trio of Norb Hecker, Doyle Nix and Joe Scudero has been on hand long enough to understand the complications of covering National Football League receivers. The Redskin defensive line is headed by Gene Brito, who missed most of the exhibition games with an injury. Brito is ready for the league season, however, and he is one of the better pass rushers in the business.