Seeing double

Those who appreciate defense might be in for an early Christmas present this December.

Yards figure to be tough to come by on both sides when the Steelers host the Washington Football Team on Monday afternoon at Heinz Field.

The matchup features the NFL's No. 3 (Steelers) and No. 4 (WFT) total defenses, the league's No. 1 (Steelers) and No. 2 (WFT) units against the pass, and the No. 1 (Steelers) and No. 2 collectors of sacks (41-36).

Washington's bonafides are such that even Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who understandably usually breaks down an opponents' offense during his weekly Zoom sessions with the media, wanted to talk about the other team's defense this time.

"Everybody says, 'They're 4-7, they're 4-7,' all that mess," Butler offered. "These people match up well with us. If you think about what they do on their defense, they've got a real good defense. Good front four, they've got a ton of draft picks in that front four. You hear their (head) coach (Ron Rivera) wanted to take that job because he knew about the front four that they had and the number ones they had invested, and if you're building a team from scratch, that's where you start.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 13 matchup against the Washington Football Team

"You start at the defensive line because we just talked about the number of sacks that you have and how much that helps. Well, shoot, what are we? What's our record? There's a reason our record is that because we have put pressure on the quarterback. We have intercepted the ball. We have gotten turnovers and stuff like that. (Rivera) chose the right place to go to take a job, and they match up well against us."

The Steelers will be looking to extend their season-opening winning streak to 12 consecutive games and, perhaps, clinch a spot in the playoffs, possibly even wrap up the AFC North Division championship.

Washington's 4-7 record is good enough for first-place tie in the NFC East.

The Football Team is 2-1 over its last three games with veteran Alex Smith starting at quarterback.

And the defensive front Butler referenced is comprised by four first-round draft picks starting, including 2020 No. 2-overall pick Chase Young, and 2011 first-round selection Ryan Kerrigan coming off the bench.

Rivera, in his first season in Washington, is a former linebacker for the legendary '85 Bears, one of the great defenses in NFL history,

"I think everything starts up front," he said. "At the end of the day those are the guys that control the run game. Those are the guys that control the passing game. By getting into the creases, by taking care of the front, they don't allow the run. By getting pressure on the quarterback immediately, by forcing the quarterback to make bad decisions there's an opportunity for the guys on the back half to make plays."

On the other side of the ball, Smith has brought elements of calm and confidence, in Rivera's estimation.

Smith is a veteran of 171 career NFL games and 164 starts, and has thrown for 35,136 yards, with 196 touchdowns and 106 interceptions, for San Francisco, Kansas City and Washington.

Rookie running back Antonio Gibson has rushed for 645 yards and scored 11 times on the ground (including three times on Thanksgiving at Dallas) and has caught 32 passes for 233 yards.

Gibson is one of three running backs with at least 50 carries (136) for Washington (J.D. McKissic has 50 for 223 yards and short-yardage back Peyton Barber has 59 for 173).

All three have rushed for touchdowns.

"They run the ball well," Butler said. "We're going to have to stop the run, and we're going to have to pressure the quarterback as much as we can. I'm excited about this game. Everyone says, 'Well shoot, they're 4-7 and blah, blah, blah.' Or, 'Shoot, you should've beat the stew out of Baltimore.' Nobody beats the stew out of nobody in the National Football League. That's the reason the National Football League is the NFL. That's what makes it the NFL.

"For us, we've got to make sure we're ready to play these guys. This is going to be a challenge for us, and we look forward to it."