Intimidating. No other word better describes the Pittsburgh Steelers. They want to be known for their intimidation. It is a psychological advantage: opponents think about avoiding the pounding rather than about catching the ball or choosing the correct hole.
"It's part of the game," said Washington Coach Jack Pardee, whose Redskins play in Pittsburgh Sunday. "I want us to play the same type of football. You get that kind of reputation by doing it week in, week out, year in, year out."
The Redskins have played the Steelers only once in the last decade, a 21-16 Monday night loss in 1973. Only five current Redskins played in that game.
"The team cannot be intinidated as a whole," said Tony Peters, who played the Steelers twices a season as a Cleveland Brown before being traded to the Redskins this year.
"But I think certain individuals on a team can and I know we had individuals like in Cleveland. That's something I've never really had a problem with. It's all a psychological thing. What can they do to you? They're not going to have knives or guns out there.
"The only thing you can do is get knocked out, which isn't the end of the world . . .If you get somebody who's thinking about getting hurt or getting knocked out, it takes away from your game."
Like those six passes the Cowboys dropped Sunday?
"Could be," Peters said. "Probably so."
"I just don't want to get into it," said tight end Jean Fugett. "They've been known for being physical and aggressive. You know blocking and tackling win games, and they do that very well. They usually win because they do that better than the other team.
"There was a time when intimidation was a big part of the game. But the rules have done a lot to try and take that out of the game -- the head slap, protecting the quarterback, defining the use of hands, stop chucking after five yards on the pass.
"Basically, the rules have eliminated it, so you have to win on foundamental football, which is blocking and tackling. They're big and strong and they're aggressive. That's why they're the world champions."
When Pardee came to the Redskins, he tried to create a physical football team, a power team instead of the finesse unit George Allen employed. Hit and get hit.
That is the style of the league, Fugett said.
"If they don't they won't be in the league very long," the tight end said.
"A receiver is going to get hit whether he catches it or not. You saw (Steeler strong safety) Donnie Shell beating Ridley Odoms to death. Sometimes he caught the ball sometimes he didn't. But either way he got hit. sSo, if you've got a shot you might as well hit. If you don't want to take the shot don't run out there. That's what Donnie Shell was telling him."
Wide receiver Danny Buggs who leads the Redskins in receptions said that thinking about getting intimidated can make a player consider retaliation, and that a receiver can worry so much about being physical himself that he forgets to run the right pattern.
"I want to be respected as a blocker," he said, "but I don't want to get into fistfights and stuff like that showing somebody I'm tough. I just want to go out there and play my game. I feel I can play just as physical as anyone else. I'm not going to be intimidated."
Intimidation, said Redskin strong safety Ken Houston, is something fans and sportswriters talk about, not football players.
"They're a football team, just like we are. Intimidate? How can a man intimidate another man? Especially when you're both trained in the same profession. I hope they're out there thinking about intimidation. We're going to go and line up to win, not just to play football. If we aren't going up there to win, we might as well call up and forfeit.
"Intimidation is something that doesn't come up among ballplayers It's not like a college team playing a pro team. I've been in the league 13 years; so have a lot of other guys on the ball club. What is there to be afraid of? All it is a 60-minute war. Sure they'll be throwing their big guns, and we will too."
Pardee said the Redskins will stay with the ball-control offense that has helped make them 6-3. The way to beat the Steelers he added is not to come up with something fancy.
"You might do it on play," said Pardee. "But we're not going to be able to fool them or trick them that much . . . (it has to be) everybody contributing. There isn't one phase of our game we're going to be going out and beating the Steelers with. We've got to be hitting on all our cylinders. a
"The Stellers have played awfully well a couple of times this year but they really haven't played much different than everybody else in the league. They came from behind and beat the Cardinals and came from behind and beat someone else . . . Cincinnati and Philadelphia both beat them.
"Pittsburgh had several turnovers in those games. They're just like everybody else. If they get turnovers they lose. I'm talking about several of them (turnovers) . . . With us at our best and them at their best anybody can win -- either team."
That is the message Pardee will preach to his players this week at Redskin Park.
"We're a pretty good football team right now. It doesn't mean everyone's scared of us we're the best team in the league. I know going in we have a chance. We're playing the best team; they ought to be favored. . . I'm sure nobody's going to pick us.
"Do we need a perfect game? No, nobody ever needs a perfect game to win. But you better keep your losses short. You better not have too many bad plays."
But that has been Pardee's philosphy all along here -- fundamental football and maximum effort.
Pardee indicated that cornerback Joe Lavender and left guard Ron Saul, who missed the loss to New Orleans with injuries, would be able to start this week.