The Steelers 38-16 beatdown of the Washington Redskins was a thing to behold on Monday night. While there’s not a lot of negative surrounding an opening week win of that caliber, there are some things that need to be addressed moving forward.
- Almost everything that Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger wanted to accomplish worked. Ben and Antonio Brown may have better chemistry than any other quarterback-receiver duo in the league. Ben has become a master at reading defenses and adjusting on the fly. The fourth and one play that Ben changed from a run to pass is a prime example. He saw the defense had stacked the box, leaving AB one on one with Bashaud Breeland, he made the quick adjustment and threw a perfect pass that only Brown had a chance for. Result-Touchdown Steelers.
- The defensive adjustment that began late in the first quarter. After giving up several short to mid-range passes to Jordan Reed (and some poor tackling-more on that later) Keith Butler made some scheme changes. The defense went into a zone coverage, with very little blitzing. It did the trick and Kirk Cousins did not look comfortable in the pocket despite not getting a ton of defensive pressure. Kudos to Keith Butler for recognizing, and making the changes on the fly and to the men who had to make the plays on the field. They kept the play in front of them and made more than a few punishing hits throughout the rest of the game.
- The ground game. I wanted to give a game ball to the entire offensive line for their play throughout the game, and to DeAngelo Williams, who still runs with speed and power like a man ten years younger. They ran left behind a pulling David DeCastro (worth every cent of his new contract by the way) several times to perfection, and chewed up yards in bunches. The Washington defense was gassed, hands on hips, throughout the 4th quarter and Williams and the o-line looked to get stronger with each successful run.
- Turnovers. Luckily, the Steelers were in position to hold onto a couple of loose balls and managed to win the turnover battle, picking off Kirk Cousins twice, while the ‘Skins only got one interception on the day.
Honorable Mention: Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates. After some early jitters, those two came up big at key times. I loved heads up play in the end zone by Rogers to get his hands on that pinball pass for a touchdown. And Ryan Shazier. The young man is a beast who has a nose for the ball and makes plays all over the field.
What didn’t work:
- Tackling. Thankfully they seemed to correct this as the game progressed, but in the first quarter I watched three different passes by Cousins where the receiver/tight end managed to add yards after catch despite a defender making contact because the Steelers linebackers and defensive backs were trying to use brute force and zero technique when tackling in space. I didn’t get to see Coach Tomlin’s face or that of Keith Butler or Joey Porter during that stretch, but I can guess they were all doing their best imitation of the Cowher chin-jut. I know I ground a few millimeters off of my teeth in that first quarter.
- Ryan Shazier’s knee. It absolutely sickens me that he can’t stay healthy. He is so dynamic and so much fun to watch, and has yet to play a full season. I am somewhat optimistic about his availability in coming weeks, since he was seen standing on the sideline after sustaining the injury, rather than carted or limping down the dreaded tunnel, but we’ll have to wait for a full report later in the week.
That’s about it. There’s not much to dislike from a win like that. The Steelers opened the season on the road, in somewhat hostile territory and left with a win. I say somewhat because by the middle of the fourth quarter Fedex Field looked more like Heinz Field. This game should put the rest of the league on notice. The Steelers, even without several stars, are a force to be reckoned with. Imagine what it’ll look like if they manage to get the whole band back together.