These two teams are at vastly different places; the Steelers are coming off of a surprisingly disappointing year, while the Redskins are on the upswing following a string of frustrating years.
Although the Steelers aren’t as good as they were during their Super Bowl run a few years back, they are a still a tough team to defeat on any day. Through a hard-nosed defense and a strong passing attack, the Steelers are a difficult outing for anyone.
Stylistically, the Redskins don’t match up well against the Steelers. When these two teams met in last year’s regular season, Robert Griffin III had one of his worst games statistically, and the Redskins' defense was torched by Ben Roethlisberger, who had three touchdown passes.
Although RG3’s receivers did drop some balls, he still looked uncomfortable when facing Pittsburgh’s front seven. Washington was also hurting after losing key players such as Pierre Garcon and Brian Orakpo to injuries.
Now, almost a year later, the Redskins will have their chance at redemption. Garcon is back, Orakpo is healthy and they’ve strengthened their weak spots.
Even though Griffin III won’t be playing, Washington will still be able to compete with Kirk Cousins at the helm.
When weaving through each team’s storylines in this game, there are two for each franchise that stand out more than the others. Read on to learn more about what to watch for in tonight’s game.
Pittsburgh Steelers Major Storyline 1: Will Le’Veon Bell pull away from the pack?
Now, Le’Veon Bell may not be The Bus, but he’s still got a busload of talent. The Michigan St. product was suffering from stiffness in his knee and missed the team’s first preseason game, but now he is healthy and should be making his Steelers debut on Monday night.
He has been entrenched in a camp battle with fellow runners Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, but this will be a great opportunity for him to pull ahead of the competition and establish himself as the deserving starter at running back.
In this game, Bell will likely see the most snaps out of the three, allowing him a chance to catch up to the others in this position battle. Even though it’s just the preseason, this game could possibly win or lose him the job.
Pittsburgh Steelers Major Storyline 2: Is Markus Wheaton the next Mike Wallace?
You’d think they’d be in chaos between Wallace taking his talents to South Beach and Plax tearing his rotator cuff, but the Steelers may have already found their replacement.
Rookie receiver Markus Wheaton has already shown that he has tremendous speed and is a better route-runner than Wallace was at this stage of his career. While Wallace is largely considered to be a one-trick pony, Wheaton is a more versatile guy with a polished route tree.
Washington Redskins Major Storyline 1: Rambo’s Rebound
Last week, rookie safety Bacarri Rambo was thoroughly embarrassed by Chris Johnson on a 58-yard touchdown run, which unfairly outshined the good things Rambo did in his NFL debut. More than that, it wasn’t entirely his fault.
One guy missed a tackle here, another guy missed an assignment there and somehow Rambo ended up looking like the fool.
Regardless, hopes are high for him in Washington–especially with Phillip Thomas potentially out for the season.
Safety was the weakest part of the Redskins last year, but if Rambo can bounce back and have a strong performance against Big Ben and the Steelers’ passing attack, then all gripes about his play last week will dissipate.
Washington Redskins Major Storyline 2: ‘Neer the top
Pat White had a triumphant return to the NFL last week when he led Washington down the field for a touchdown and a subsequent two-point conversion.
The former Mountaineer was fearless in the pocket and threw sharp, precise passes. In addition to his arm making an impression, he looked pretty good on the run.
There’s absolutely no chance of him overtaking RG3 for the starting job, but it’s beginning to look like he will knock out Rex Grossman for the third quarterback spot.
With common logic pointing to Cousins going from reliable backup to trade bait after this season, White’s performances leading up to opening day could earn him a long-term backup role with the team should things play out that way.
Regardless, White is playing good football and as long as that continues, he will make this team.
The Bottom Line
It’s very likely that there are a few Redskins who are still hurting from their rough 27-12 loss against the Steelers last year, and they will look to make up for it in this game.
When comparing these two teams on paper, it’s evident the Redskins have more depth on offense, especially at quarterback. However, offense isn’t what will win this game for either team.
This won’t be a pretty game; it will be determined by which defense stands tallest, and the advantage there goes to Pittsburgh. The Steelers have too deep of a pass rush and a full stable of athletic linebackers. It will be a smash-mouth game, but in the end, the Steelers’ defense will carry them to a victory.
Prediction: Steelers 17, Redskins 10