Posted on August 14, 2016 by Brian Neal
The first Monday Night Football game of the double-header that takes place every year in Week 1 pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Washington Redskins. While it’s still May, it’s never too early to get ready for the upcoming 2016 NFL season. Who has the best odds of coming away with a 1-0 record from this matchup? A preview and prediction are below.
Game Day: Monday, Sept. 12
Game Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Great Landover, Md.
Betting Line: -2.5 PIT; 51 O/U (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
Steelers Key Losses:
- LT Kelvin Beachum (free agent)
- DT Steve McLendon (free agent)
- CB Antwon Blake (free agent)
- CB Cortez Allen (released)
Steelers Key Additions:
- TE Ladarius Green (free agent)
- LT Ryan Harris (free agent)
- CB Artie Burns (drafted)
- CB Sean Davis (drafted)
- DT Javon Hargrave (drafted)
- OT Jerald Hawkins (drafted)
Redskins Key Losses:
- QB Robert Griffin III (released)
- S Dashon Goldson (released)
- LB Keenan Robinson (free agent)
- RB Alfred Morris (free agent)
- DT Terrance Knighton (free agent)
Redskins Key Additions:
- CB Josh Norman (free agent)
- S David Bruton (free agent)
- DE Kendall Reyes (free agent)
- TE Vernon Davis (free agent)
- WR Josh Doctson (drafted)
- LB Su’a Cravens (drafted)
- CB Kendall Fuller (drafted)
Two playoff teams from the 2015 season, both the Steelers and Redskins made some interesting decisions this offseason; the question is, who improved the most and has put themselves in the position to win in Week 1?
Pittsburgh comes in with one of the most potent offenses in the league. Ben Roethlisberger will have Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell back from injury, and Martavis Bryant and the newly-signed Green will both be added to the mix as the veteran QB’s top targets.
Perhaps the biggest loss on this side of the ball was Beachum, as their left tackle left for a nice payday in free agency. In steps, Harris, who’ll more than likely take over as a stopgap for a season or two. If he can shore up that side of the line, then this offense shouldn’t have any troubles in 2016. The unit will also have a bit more help, as Hawkins was brought in as a fourth-round pick in the draft. He projects as a right tackle, and fits the mold as a powerful run-blocker to pave the way for Bell and others.
Defensively, the Steelers improved quite a bit last season. That said, corner has been an issue for years. Potentially, the Steelers may have finally addressed and secured that need, taking one in both the first and second round. Both Burns and Davis are raw, but extremely fast and tall corners. Steelers fans will need to be patient with them. Odds are, they won’t live up to the billing of being Pittsburgh’s top two picks. But eventually, one, if not both could become very talented corners.
Washington was the surprise winner of the NFC East last year — a campaign in which it wasn’t certain that any team wanted to win it.
The Redskins did find out that Kirk Cousins is their quarterback of at least the next few years. He has his flaws, but he’s productive in that offense, and will be getting more weapons to use in 2016.
Doctson was their prize of the draft. At 6-foot-2, he provides a great catch-radius, and he’ll be a fantastic red-zone target for Cousins, which was an area that was a struggle considering the lack of a consistent running game and tight end Jordan Reed being their only reliable option down there. The receiving corps consisting of Doctson, Reed, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson will be one of the most dynamic in the league, assuming they can stay healthy.
Of course, outside of the draft, Norman was the big get. His surprise cut from the Carolina Panthers shocked the league, but the Redskins took advantage. While marquee, expensive contracts don’t always work out in the NFL, the prospect of having a lockdown corner is just far too great in today’s game. Norman is the best talent they’ve had at that spot since Champ Bailey was on the team all those years ago.
Norman, plus all of the other under-the-radar odds in free agency and the draft, should raise the defense to a respectable level. If that ends up being the case, the Redskins could be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC East, and not just because every other team is struggling.
Prediction: The Redskins made great leaps this offseason, but will it be enough to take down the Steelers? At home, they’ll have a chance. Consider this: Roethlisberger threw just five touchdowns to nine interceptions on the road last season. While some of that was due to injuries, Washington will have that advantage in Week 1.
Final Score: Redskins 29, Steelers 27