In the NFL, Slow starts can be agonizing and frustrating, because it seems like a team is wasting opportunities when they don’t capitalize. But one thing we can remember about football is that it’s a 60-minute game, and when you play those 60 minutes’ things can change-including those slow starts.
Such was the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers who endured their slow start and ended up destroying the Washington Redskins 38-16 at FedEx Field in their first game of the NFL season. In my years of watching the Steelers, I’ve learned that it may take them a minute to get hot, but never to boil, and when they start that boil, no team can stop them.
Just ask the Redskins.
It’s no surprise that the Steelers offense is what carries the team now, and they truly lived up to that fact as they piled up 435 total yards against the Redskins, 300 of them by way of QB Ben Roethlisberger, 143 (147 total) by way of RB DeAngelo Williams and 126 by way of WR Antonio Brown. Kudos to the offensive line who only allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked once, and also to Big Ben, who avoided potential sacks by stepping up in the pocket to extend the play.
But if you watched the first few minutes of the game, you wouldn’t have been so convinced that the Steelers had it together as they failed to convert on their first 2 drives, one of them resulting in a tipped pass off rookie WR Eli Rogers-that landed in the hands of Redskins DB Bashaud Breeland.
Fortunately for the Steelers, the Redskins didn’t really capitalize off the Steelers slow start, although they managed to get a 6-0 lead courtesy of 2 Dustin Hoffman field goals. But as I’ve said time and time again, field goals are a good appetizer, but touchdowns are the mail course and on their 3rd drive, the Steelers were finally ready to eat as they drove down the field on the Redskins defense on their 3rd drive. But let’s be real: At first It looked like they had fallen short after not converting on 3rd down, but Steelers HC Mike Tomlin decided to gamble by not only letting the Steelers ‘go for it’ on 4th down, but as the Redskins put several men in the box anticipating a run by Williams, but by allowing Roethlisberger to fake it to the veteran RB and loft a pass into the endzone-that fell into the hands of Brown for their first TD-and a 7-6 lead.
That’s why I say TD’s matter-because they do. And after that score, the Steelers never trailed again the rest of the game. After the Steelers forced the Redskins to punt, Roethlisberger was at it again, mixing passes with runs as they once again drove down the field on the Redskins stunned defense and when they got to the 3-yard line, Big Ben fired a pass that bounced off-and then settled into the hands of Rogers for their 2nd TD of the game. It was Rogers 1st career TD of his career.
Early in the 3rd quarter, the Steelers ran on the Redskins again, but this time they had to settle for a 46-yard Chris Boswell FG, extending their lead to 17-6. But when the Redskins got the ball, the Steelers defense stepped it up and forced QB Kirk Cousins to throw the ball and when he did, it landed into the hands of LB Ryan Shazier for the interception. Even though a penalty pushed the Steelers back, it didn’t stop Roethlisberger from moving his team forward as he fired a pass that landed into the hands of WR Sammie Coates for an impressive 32-yard gain, and then he found Brown for his 2nd TD of the game-this time a 26-yarder to extend their lead to 24-6.
Since it was late in the 3rd quarter, it’s sometimes easy to put things in cruise control, right? That’s what I believe the Steelers defense did, as they allowed 10 unanswered Redskins points to close the Steelers lead to 24-16. Hoffman kicked a 34-yard FG and then Cousins and the Redskins offense switched to short passes and drove down the field on the Steelers and scored their first TD of the game when RB Chris Thompson ran it in from the 1-yard line.
I honestly believe that that TD woke the Steelers up and reminded them that they still had over 12 minutes to play in the game. ‘No problem’ replied the Steelers as they switched to Williams and the running game and he made it word as he ran roughshod over the ‘Skins en route to a 15-yard TD, extending the Steelers lead to 31-16. In my opinion, that was the Coup De Grace, but believe it or not, the Steelers weren’t done.
After the Redskins failed to convert on 4th down, the Steelers went back at it again, and gave the ball to Williams, who looked like a bowling ball out there as he wore the Redskins defense out. Williams scored his 2nd TD of the game, a 6-yarder to extend their lead to 38-16.
With seconds left, the Redskins looked like they were about to score their 2nd TD of the game, but Cousins fired a pass that landed in the hands of 38-year old LB James Harrison for the Steelers 2nd interception of the game. The Steelers offense then took a knee to run out the clock, preserving their 38-16 victory, earning them a 1-0 record.
Roethlisberger threw 3 TD passes, and is now the first player in NFL history to throw at least 500 completions to three different teammates (Heath Miller: 540, Hines Ward: 512 and Antonio Brown (502). He also Surpassed Dan Fouts (43,040) for the 12th-most passing yards in NFL history, with 43,295, surpassed Kerry Collins and Philip Rivers (3,487) for the 12th-most pass completions in NFL history, with 3,503, and Surpassed HOF Joe Montana (273) for the 13th-most touchdown passes in NFL history, with 275. He also tied Vinny Testaverde (275) for the 12th-most touchdown passes in NFL history.
Williams ran for 2 TDs and Brown caught 6 passes and scored 2 TDs. The Steelers also got signature performances from Rogers who caught 6 passes for 59 yards, and Coates who had 2 catches for 56 yards, and TE Jesse James caught 5 passes for 31 yards. It may have been a slight concern that the Steelers didn’t have RB Le’Veon Bell (suspension), WR Martavis Bryant (suspension), Markus Wheaton (injury) and TE LaDarius Green (injury), but you would never have known it after the way their ‘backups’ performed.
For the Redskins, Cousins had a decent game, passing for 323 yards, and veteran WR DeSean Jackson caught 6 passes for 102 yards. But the Redskins could only generate one TD against the Steelers defense, who had their struggles, but got the job done. In addition to Shazier and Harrison’s interceptions, LB Lawrence Timmons led the team with 8 tackles. For the Redskins, LB Mason Foster led with 14 tackles with LB Ryan Kerrigan getting the game’s only sack.
Overall, I was impressed with the Steelers today, they ‘pitched’ a complete game and scored 5 TDs today. Usually that will get you a W. Roethlisberger looked like the Roethlisberger of old as he extended plays and didn’t hold onto the ball too long and Williams looked like the young man who ran for the Carolina Panthers several years ago and Brown…well…he’s the NFL’s best WR…I’ll just leave it at that. I feel that the defense needs to get their pass rush going on a consistent basis. Every time they did so, they forced Cousins into mistakes. But overall, I think they did a decent job.
The Steelers imposed their will on the Redskins Monday night, and if they continue to do so the rest of the season, I think we may see ever greater things from them.
Next up: The Steelers return to Pittsburgh for their home opener on Sunday vs. the Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
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