The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a familiar situation starting Week 1 without star running back Le’Veon Bell due to suspension. In June, Bell missed a drug test and as penalty he’ll miss the first four games of the season — last year he missed two after he was charged with marijuana possession and driving under the influence.
The Steelers will also be without wide receiver Martavis Bryant, their second-leader in touchdowns last season, who was suspended for the year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
But Pittsburgh is prepared with DeAngelo Williams ready to take over the early season workload as he did last year in Bell's absence. In last season’s opener he ran for 127 yards on 21 carries and followed that up with three touchdowns and 77 yards in Week 2. He could be in for a big day against a Washington team whose defense ranked 26th in rushing yards per game last year.
Behind a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who led the league in catches and totaled the second-most receiving yards last season, Pittsburgh has playoff aspirations for a third straight year.
The beneficiary of a weak NFC East, Washington clinched a playoff spot with just nine wins, one fewer than the NFC’s wild card representative, the Green Bay Packers last season.The Packers won the first-round playoff matchup between the two, 35-18.
But Washington has a chance this season to show it's deserving of a playoff spot. Playing in a division that will start a pair of rookie quarterbacks -- Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz and the Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott -- may lean in favor of Washington. The team has quarterback Kirk Cousins back after he was given the franchise tag, and Washington added Josh Norman with the most expensive contract a cornerback has seen in the league. Last season for the Carolina Panthers, Norman deflected 19 passes and had four interceptions, two returned for touchdowns.
Here at SB Nation the voting was much tighter:
|Game||RVB||Stephen White||Thomas George||Jeanna Thomas||Adam Stites||Tyler Tynes||Louis Bien||Joel Thorman||Fooch||OddsShark computer|
|PIT vs WAS||WAS||WAS||WAS||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||PIT||WAS||WAS|