Monday night the Steelers will take their talents to Fedex Field in Landover, MD to face 2015 NFC East champs, the Washington Redskins. I will take a look at the main reasons (in my opinion) why either team could get a win in week one, and how it could happen.
Why the Steelers will win: Offense, offense, offense.
It starts with the offensive line and their ability to both create holes for the running game and protect Ben Roethlisberger on passing downs. The Steelers offensive line is healthy and ready to prove their value. Aside from Alejandro Villanueva, the offensive line accounts for a large portion of the Steelers’ salary cap. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak knows how to coach these guys, and they follow the lead of their Pro Bowl Center, Maurkice Pouncey.
The offense drives this bus, and Ben is the catalyst, but Ben needs a clean pocket to operate from, and the running backs need some room to run. The offense is the key to all this and the Redskins have a good defense with a formidable pass rush.
The key to the Steelers game is the offensive line keeping the likes of Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan off of Big Ben, and creating some seams to help DeAngelo Williams get to the second level. If Ben has time to make the throws, Antonio Brown and the receiving crew will find space and make plays for him. If Williams has room to rush, Roethlisberger and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley will find wrinkles in the defense to expose, and the Steelers will put thirty-plus points on the board and get the win.
Why the Redskins will win: Poor play by the Pittsburgh secondary.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is thriving in Jay Gruden’s offense and has some talented weapons at his disposal. Cousins completed almost 70% of his passes last season for almost 4,200-yards with 29 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. His receivers are household names — DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both studs at their position, and tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both capable of being dynamic receivers wherever they line up.
Historically, the Steelers’ secondary has struggled with covering athletic tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Gary Barnidge and Antonio Gates. The addition of some youth and athleticism in the secondary should help the Steelers do a better job in that regard. If Keith Butler’s secondary struggles to make plays early and often, keeping the play in front of them, and especially-make tackles, then Cousins and his receivers will march up and down the field and put points on the board in bunches, forcing the Steelers to play from behind.
In conclusion, there are many factors that could come into play to decide this football game, but I believe that the scenarios above will be the difference between the Steelers returning home with a win or a loss.