If you checked the box score just prior to the half, you might have been surprised to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers were leading Washington. The statistics for each team were pretty similar through the first half, but Pittsburgh was able to capitalize on Washington’s mistakes and overcome their own, earning the win with a final score of 38-16.
Washington looked solid early, sustaining drives but settling for field goals on its first two possessions. Bashaud Breeland helped out, picking off Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ second possession, but 24 unanswered points for the Steelers in the second and third quarters created what would become an insurmountable deficit for Washington.
One of the most anticipated matchups of this game was supposed to be Washington’s Josh Norman on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, but it was one we didn’t get to enjoy. Washington matched Breeland up with Brown instead, and that seemed like a mistake. Brown had 126 yards and two touchdowns with Breeland in coverage.
Brown is the best receiver in the NFL, but he wasn’t the only one stepping up for the Steelers on Monday night. Eli Rogers, who was an undrafted free agent, had one of the more entertaining touchdowns of Week 1, catching a ball that bounced off of his teammate’s hands and into Rogers’ face before he pulled it in for the score.
DeAngelo Williams certainly helped propel the Steelers to victory, racking up 143 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Much like last season, the Steelers should be fine with Williams filling in during Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension.
Roethlisberger ended up throwing one interception and fumbling the ball twice, but he recovered both of his own fumbles, making those mistakes easier to overcome. Kirk Cousins threw two picks, but the bigger problem for Washington was the number of false starts the offense had, which is unusual for a home team.
Cousins’ stat line for this game wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t accurately reflect his performance. He made questionable decisions throughout, including throwing an interception directly into the hands of Ryan Shazier.
One of the key differences between Washington and the Steelers Monday night was the ability of each team to convert third and fourth downs. Washington converted just three of 10 third downs, while Pittsburgh converted nine of 14 attempts. The Steelers were perfect on fourth down, converting two of two. Cousins' decisions on both of Washington's fourth down attempts prevented conversions. He threw short of the marker on one and ran out of bounds well before the marker on a keeper on another.
The last offensive play for Washington ended in an interception in the end zone by Steelers linebacker James Harrison. It appeared that Harrison maybe didn’t complete the catch, but Washington didn’t challenge the ruling, and it certainly felt like a fitting ending to the game.
Washington couldn’t get out of its own way Monday night, and the Steelers capitalized on that, locking up the win.