The Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins are the final two teams around the league yet to kick off their season, but that is coming in just a short while from now. It goes without saying that this night has been highly anticipated for a while now.
The Steelers’ first-team offense didn’t see the field much during the preseason, only for two drives, but both of them ended in touchdowns. But the Redskins have a couple of good cornerbacks who are especially going to test Pittsburgh’s young wide receivers.
The offense still has a lot of talent, including a few All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, of course, but it is still missing Le’Veon Bell, Ladarius Green, and for tonight at least, Markus Wheaton, as well as fullback Roosevelt Nix.
The defense is going to see a lot of action from some rookies tonight, in particular Javon Hargrave along the defensive line and Sean Davis working in the slot. Artie Burns may see action as well. Tyler Matakevich is active tonight over Steven Johnson, and he will see time on special teams, no doubt. Shamarko Thomas is also active. Here is the list of those who are not:
Steelers Inactive Players
QB Zach Mettenberger
WR Markus Wheaton
FB Roosevelt Nix
OL Cody Wallace
CB Senquez Golson
DE L.T. Walton
LB Steven Johnson
Redskins Inactive Players
QB Nate Sudfeld
S Duke Ihenacho
CB Kendall Fuller
WR Rashad Ross
G Arie Kouandjio
OL Austin Reiter
DE Anthony Lanier
The Steelers won the coin toss, but, in contrast to last season, deferred to the second half, so the defense will be on the field first. Chris Boswell kicked the ball through the back of the end zone for a touchback, which now puts the ball out to the 25. Ryan Shazier recorded the first missed tackle of the season on an underneath route that produced a first down as a result.
But he came back on the next play to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Lawrence Timmons was in on coverage on another underneath route for Jordan Reed, and helped force an incompletion, but he missed the tackle on Reed that would have prevented a first down.
From the Steelers’ 49, Kirk Cousins‘ pass was caught by the target out of bounds in their first snap in the 3-4, with Javon Hargrave at nose tackle. Cameron Heyward stayed disciplined on a misdirection play, making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of four. Sean Davis missed another open-field tackle, but the defense–with Artie Burns on the field, made the tackle short of the first down, and the Redskins punted on fourth and one. Eli Rogers was back to receive the punt.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense start from the 13. DeAngelo Williams took the ball to the left, but picked up just a yard. Rogers caught the first pass of the season for the Steelers for six yards. On third and four, Roethlisberger checked it to Williams, but he only picked up two yards based on the officials’ spot of the ball. Jordan Berry‘s punt from the 21 was fair caught after 46 yards.
From the 33, Jarvis Jones tackled Matt Jones after about four yards coming from the back side. On second down, DeSean Jackson got in front of Timmons and turned up the sideline all the way to the Steelers’ 31. Jones picked up eight yards through the Steelers’ defense off the right side. Checking into the 3-4 again, Cousins threw a poor pass that should have been intercepted by Ross Cockrell. On third down, Cousins threw low, but Jackson plucked the ball off the ground for a good reception and a first down into the red zone.
From the 17, Jones found space for four yards up the middle. Shazier defended Reed in the back of the end zone for an incompletion. On third and six, Cousins was inaccurate again, wide and low for an incompletion. Washingotn got on the board first, however, with a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Sammie Coates indeed was back to return the first kick of the game, though it was a touchback. From the 25, Antonio Brown secured his first reception of the game for five. On second down, Williams got the carry and showed patience to gain four yards. On third and one, Roethlisberger found Rogers open, who picked up some yards after the catch on an explosive play. From the Redskins’ 46, Coates’ first target of the year was on a low screen pass that he could not secure. Roethlisberger targeted Rogers on an intermediate route that he could not secure, and the ball popped up to be intercepted by Breeland, returned across midfield. The ball was wide.
Following the interception, the Redskins hit quick on a first-down pass, but one again their possession stalled as they approached the Steelers’ end zone, and Robert Golden came up with the stop on third down to force a second field goal. Artie Burns got pressure on the kick, which was good, but he was offsides, though the penalty was declined. Another touchback was the result of the ensuing kickoff.
The Steelers open in a two-tight end look, and the second tight end is–Xavier Grimble. Roethlisberger took a sack on the first play of the drive for a substantial loss. Ryan Kerrigan was able to strip the ball from Roethlisberger’s hand. Kerrigan had the ball, but Maurkice Pouncey tackled him to force the ball out, and the Steelers recovered. A screen to Williams picked up the lost yardage and more. On third and eight, so start the second quarter, fired high to Brown, who went up to get the ball for the first down.
Williams found a crease for an eight-yard pickup off the left side with David Johnson crossing the formation. On second and short, he fought through initial contact to move the sticks. From the Washington 49, the ball remained on the ground with Williams, who was close to picking up four yards. On second down, Roethlisberger used a play-action boot to find Jesse James for a first down.
Fitzgerald Toussaint got his first touch of the season for a short gain. Brown had the ball stripped from his hands as he was turning, with the play ruled an incompletion. The Redskins challenged the ruling. The ruling was confirmed upon review, stating that Brown did not establish himself as a runner.
On third and eight, Roethlisberger threw underneath to James, who came up a bit short of the first down, but it put them in field goal range. Yet on fourth and one, Roethlisberger used play action to take a deep shot to Brown, who went up over Breeland to snare the ball in the end zone for the first touchdown of the season. Boswell’s extra point attempt gave the Steelers the first lead of the season.
After a touchback, Cousins went deep on the first play of the drive and found Jackson down the field, with Mike Mitchell the only defender near for 33 yards. Jones picked up nine yards on the play, but a hold on Vernon Davis negated the play. Now at the Steelers’ 43 after a false start to boot, a quick short pass to Jamison Crowder picked up nine yards. On second and 16, Jones picked up about six. On third and 10, Timmons led the swarm to step the pass underneath well short of the first down, with Reed shaken up a bit. On fourth and six, the Redskins ran a play, but the defense stood up the receiver just shy of the sticks, as the Steelers force a turnover on downs.
Taking over at their own 33, Williams avoided a tackle in the backfield on a draw and ended up picking up five yards. Five wide on second down, Roethlisberger went underneath to James, who was stopped a bit short of the first down. On third and inches, following a measurement, Williams got the carry out of the shotgun for the first down.
Another draw run for Williams picked up eight. Williams could not convert on second down. On third and one, from a heavy set, the Steelers narrowly avoided a delay of game, and Williams showed strength in fighting through traffic for the first.
Rogers was targeted underneath for a gain of about five on the following play. On second down, Roethlisberger fired high on a check down to Williams, who could not bring in the ball. On third down, went back to Williams, lined up wide, but the back was just short to set up fourth and inches. The Steelers ran the play quickly and Roethlisberger hit Rogers for the first and more.
Now at the 15, Rogers got the ball again short, picking up six yards. From the nine, a target for James in the end zone was batted down in front of him by David Bruton. On third and four, Roethlisberger threw quick to James for the reception and the first down to set up first and goal.
From the three-yard line, with four wide, Roethlisberger threw into a crowd, bouncing off of Coates and the defender, but it bounced right into Rogers’ arms in the end zone for the touchdown. The Steelers grab a 14-6 lead in bizarre fashion as the first half draws to a close. The Redskins ran one play on the ground to get into the locker room.