After a wild opening Sunday of NFL action filled with close calls and bold decisions (I’m looking at you, Mr. Del Rio), Week 1 concludes with two Monday night matchups. The first kicks off at 7:10 p.m. ET as the Pittsburgh Steelers pay the Washington Redskins a visit in cross-conference battle. The Steelers will be without Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell, but they still come in as 2.5-point favorites over Washington. It figures to be a high-scoring matchup with both teams fielding explosive offenses, and like Sunday’s games, it will likely come down to the final possession. After seeing the Ravens and Bengals win their first games of the season, the Steelers need a victory to keep pace in the AFC North. The Redskins have to do the same in the NFC East with the Eagles and Giants opening the year with victories. Only one team can win this one, though, and it will be the Steelers.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsDerick E. Hingle
Antonio Brown will win the matchup with Josh Norman
Ah, the marquee matchup of Week 1: Steelers receiver Antonio Brown against Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. Two of the best at their positions going at it under the bright lights on "Monday Night Football." Unfortunately for the Redskins, Norman is not going to win this battle. Brown is going to show why he’s the game’s best receiver against one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL. Norman can’t match Brown’s quickness and precise route running, and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is going to make the most of his receiver’s superior traits. Haley is going to build a game plan to get Brown open with underneath routes, allowing him to work across the middle, thus pulling Norman from his comfortable spot as a left cornerback. Additionally, the Steelers will use Brown in the slot fairly often, which is a spot Norman doesn’t always excel in. Don't expect Brown to completely dominate Norman the way A.J. Green worked Darrelle Revis on Sunday, but he should undoubtedly surpass 100 yards receiving.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
The Redskins’ lack of a running game
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Redskins lack any semblance of a running game. Running back Matt Jones is dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason, but he’s expected to play Monday night. Even if he is active and shows no ill effects of the injury, the Redskins’ ground attack is in trouble. Washington was 20th in the NFL last season with 1,566 rushing yards, and that was with Alfred Morris in the fold. What’s even more concerning is the fact that the Redskins were 30th, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Jones on his own averaged a measly 3.4 yards per attempt, and he also fumbled it five times in 144 carries. The Redskins have a strong passing game, but they can’t afford to rely on it. They have to hold the ball on offense and keep Roethlisberger off the field as much as possible, given the question marks on defense. If Jones and the ground game can’t get it going early, Washington will be in for a long night.
USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
For one reason or another, Roethlisberger doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a top-five quarterback. He’s consistently among the league leaders in passing yards and touchdowns despite battling through numerous injuries and being forced to play without his top weapons on a regular basis. In this one, Roethlisberger is the far better quarterback. Kirk Cousins is on the rise, but Big Ben is already there. He can make every throw in the book, and the absence of Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell won’t prove to be costly. The Steelers are going to ride the arm of Roethlisberger until Bell returns in Week 4, and this game won’t be any different. Expect him to throw for more than 300 yards and put up points in bunches against the Redskins. His experience late in games will help Pittsburgh in this one as it’ll likely come down to the wire.