September 12th, 2016. The day Pittsburgh Steelers fans have had engraved in their minds since the schedule was released. It’s been a long offseason, but I’m glad to say we’re back in action. Tonight, the Steelers took on the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, for what could potentially be a very promising campaign. I’ll spare you any more pleasantries and jump right into the game.
After an incredibly slow start for both offenses, it was ultimately the Redskins who struck first. After swapping punts, WR Desean Jackson pushed the offense into the Steelers redzone before stalling, finally putting 3 points on the board thanks to K Dustin Hopkins’ 31 yard field goal.
The following drive for the Steelers didn’t end well either, as QB Ben Roethlisberger miscommunicated a crossing pattern with WR Eli Rogers, as the ball popped up for CB Bashaud Breeland to pick. Although S Robert Golden threw his body around like a human missile throughout the first quarter, the defense couldn’t get to QB Kirk Cousins, which allowed the Redskins to charge down the field and hit yet another Hopkins field goal- this time from 40 yards out. Game stood at 6-0 for the Redskins.
The second quarter was where the Steelers’ offense began to find some rhythm- not without some turmoil, might I add- one of CB Josh Norman’s first looks at WR Antonio Brown resulted in what looked like a forced fumble, but ultimately ruled an incomplete pass as AB had not retained the ball, and made a move to be considered a reception (but hey, nowadays who knows what a catch looks like!)
Ben and Haley seemed tired with the lethargic nature of the offensive momentum, and decided to go for the jugular- a deep 29 yard pass on 4th down to Brown made the game 7-6. Breeland was starting to learn quickly what type of beast AB is.
Cousins tried to fight back with his own 29 yard pass to Jackson, but after two costly penalties and an unsuccessful 4th down, the Steelers quickly began to steal momentum.
The Steelers tried to carry that momentum into the following drive, meticulously moving down the field. An Eli Rogers 4th down conversion kept the drive alive and into the Redskins’ redzone.
Rogers would ultimately be the one to put 6 on the board, but his first NFL career touchdown would be anything but textbook- a slant to WR Sammie Coates would bounce clean off of his chest, and pop into the hands of Rogers who would show a great amount of concentration to hang on. The catch would increase the lead to 14-6 for two consecutive scores. The drive also went for 14 plays and clocked just under 6 minutes.
The second half started a bit slow, as Ben would ultimately underthrow TE Jesse James on a 3rd down (and miss AB who was open underneath), while K Chris Boswell would make the game 17-6 with a 46 yard field goal.
This is where LB Ryan Shazier (if he hadn’t already done so earlier in the game) would illustrate his high ceiling and physical dominance. After forcing a fumble on the prior play, he dropped back in an underneath deep cross to intercept Cousins and take the ball back 51 yards (which would be reduced thanks to a Mike Mitchell block in the back penalty).
Fortunately, the additional room would allow Ben to find Sammie Coates for a 42 yard deep pass along the sideline, against CB Greg Toler. If you read my individual breakdown of the Redskins defense, you’d know Greg Toler struggled mightily against the Steelers last year when he was with the Colts. Those struggled continued tonight.
Brown would go for his second touchdown of the evening, catching a 42 yard ball over Breeland once again, making the game 24-6. Josh Normam stayed glued to the left side of the field, so Brown was mostly matched up against Breeland for the most part (which I’m sure Breeland just LOVED).
After finding a bit of offensive success, the Redskins moved down the field, but ultimately hit yet another field goal after Cousins threw the ball away on a 3-man rush. This would make the game 24-9. A rare Jordan Berry sighting would wrap up the 3rd quarter.
The 4th quarter began with Cousins and co. picking up where they left off, but this time would finish off the drive in the endzone. Attacking the zone defense infront of him, and benefitting from a lot of missed tackles, RB Chris Thompson would punch in a 2 yard run, making it a bit closer at 24-16. This drive went 7 plays for 77 yards.
The DeAngelo Williams show would be on full display to end the game. The offensive line began to push around the battered Redskins’ defense, and it would be Williams who would finish the drive with a very Le’Veon Bell type cut, after a Sammie Coates block sprung the veteran running back. The 15 yard touchdown would make the game 31-16, and a second Williams touchdown a drive later would finish the game off at 38-16.
The Steelers won by a score of 38-16. They also amounted a total of 23 first downs after starting slow, went 9/14 on 3rd downs, and went 100% on 4th downs by hitting both attempts. They also had a total of 435 yards, 147 of which were rushing, while the remaining 288 were in the air. Fans can sleep easy knowing they locked up their first win of the season, and played well at that. They look to increase their record to 2-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals next week- their first meeting since the notorious wildcard game of 2015.