Monday Night Football kicks off with a bang as the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Washington Redskins at FedExField in Landover (7.10pm ET Monday on ESPN).
There’s a lot at stake in this matchup, especially for the home team who are looking for the chance to prove that last season was not a fluke. The Redskins have a chance to really show that they can be a dominant force in the league and that they have in fact built a winner. While the first game of the season is just that, being able to beat the Steelers, the team that has made the playoffs 16 times in the last 24 seasons, would go a long way for Washington.
The Steelers, despite being one of the league’s most consistent and reliable franchises, are coming off a year in which they failed to win the AFC North. Instead, the Cincinnati Bengals won the crown, something that Pittsburgh is going to want to ensure doesn’t happen again.
This is just one game but with two divisions to be won and spots in the playoffs as the end of season goals, this one could be a tone-setting preview of how these teams fair over the rest of the year.
Matchup to Watch: (PIT) WR Antonio Brown vs (WAS) CB Josh Norman
This is perhaps the most intriguing matchup, not just of this game but of the season because Antonio Brown (pictured) is the premier wide receiver in the league and Josh Norman is one of the NFL’s top corners. Last year, fans might remember the battle between Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. and how it defined that game. Well, if that was any example of what we might see Monday between these two then we are in for a treat.
This is going to be a serious test for Norman as Brown tied for the league lead last year with 136 receptions and ranked second with 1,834 receiving yards. He also added 10 touchdowns and was among the best in his average of 13.5 yards per catch. One of the fastest receivers in the league, Brown is going to have an advantage on Monday if he just plays within himself and listens to his quarterback’s advice of not letting Norman get into his head. Because that is a big part of the savvy and physical corner’s game. Last year, it worked on Beckham so much so that the two almost came to blows after one particular play.
Norman has physicality at the position that is somewhat unmatched. However, he has never quite faced a receiver as fast and as explosive as that of the Steelers’ top weapon. Take your pick, this one could go either way.
Battle of the QBS: (WAS) Kirk Cousins vs (PIT) Ben Roethlisberger
In 2015, Kirk Cousins surprised a lot of people as he not only overtook Robert Griffin III as the starter, but he also emerged as one of the top QBs. He more than held his own and with weapons like Jordan Reed, whose own emergence as a top tight end was part of last year’s narrative, and DeSean Jackson, who is a speedy receiver himself, Cousins has the cast that has helped him succeed.
Repeating as a top QB is one of the hardest things to do in this league and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger knows that as well as anybody. Like Cousins, Roethlisberger has a great complement of weapons. The Steelers offense was the highest ranked last year in total yards and passing yards. Behind Brown, Roethlisberger has LeVeon Bell, a pass-catching back who excels when healthy.
The Steelers will be without Bell’s services for the first three games thanks to his suspension. They are also missing Markus Wheaton because of an injury and Martavis Bryant is also suspended. Obviously, an offensive impact will be felt. However, one does not get to the status Roethlisberger has as a top-6 QB in the league without having to work through a few injuries to top players. This year will be no different.
This battle of the quarterbacks is going to be secondary to the offensive/defensive battle posed with Brown and Norman. In addition, Pittsburgh’s high firing offense vs Washington’s strong defense will probably also have more significance on the outcome. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to play a big part in this game. The QB who manages to use their weapons best, the one who draws in the defense and exploits the holes, will be the one leading his team to victory.
Our Preview’s Pittsburgh Steelers vs Washington Redskins Betting Picks
The Redskins find themselves between two and a half and three-point home underdogs with the USA-facing offshore sportsbooks. Pittsburgh is not 100 percent and will be without quite a few high impact players. Washington meanwhile is relatively healthy and should bring a strong fight to their opponents. However, Pittsburgh is just a better all-around team, hence them being road favorites.
The Steelers excel in situations like this and there is definitely opportunity for them to walk away with the victory. Defensively, Pittsburgh has slowly been building back to the dominance it once had and offensively, they boast the best around the league. There is no denying that this is a playoff team in the making and one that should take the division back from the Bengals. So you can tell which way our betting pick is going for this preview:
- There is currently some divergence among the bookies and the option this preview prefers is to take the Steelers -2.5pts @ betting odds of -120 with 5Dimes Sportsbook. If you want better odds you would need to give up that half point advantage and go with -3pts @ +105 with Betonline, which is a very tempting alternative. It is -3pts for -115 with Bovada.
- Expect the game to stay close and expect it to be reliant on both teams’ offenses. For that reason our other betting pick is to take the over 50 total points to be scored in the game @ -110 with any of Bovada, 5Dimes or BetOnline sportsbooks.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.