Steelers lose preseason opener


Steelers' record: 0-1
One year ago: 1-0
Preseason series record: Redskins lead, 12-5-1

In this year of training camp with no OTAs followed by the adoption of a collective bargaining agreement that prohibited two-a-day practices at camp, there was a lot of speculation about what the product might look like in the preseason opener. The Steelers' approach to the game was to let the players play with no scouting or game-planning of the opponent. Whether the Redskins game-planned wasn't known, but Coach Mike Shanahan did play his offensive and defensive regulars through the entire first half.

Often in preseason games, especially early preseason games, the difference in the outcome can be traced to a difference in approach. For this game, Mike Tomlin and his staff did not put together a game plan, nor did the Steelers do much more than run things simple enough to give their young players a chance to execute. Mike Shanahan seemed to be much more interested in winning the game, which was apparent by his decision to play his starters for a full half while also coming at the Steelers with a lot of misdirection on offense and aggressive blitzes on defense.

There are several statistics that could be used to point out the degree of the Redskins' dominance, and here are two: Washington out-gained Pittsburgh in total offense, 452-186, and finished with an edge in time of possession, 39:25-20:35.

* The Redskins drove to the Steelers 10-yard line before the defense stiffened and ultimately forced a 29-yard field goal attempt by Shayne Graham. He missed the kick badly to the left.

  • Daniel Sepulveda's first punt traveled 62 yards and was downed at the Washington 1-yard line; his second went 51 yards and was returned for 20 yards by WR Brandon Banks. His third punt traveled 54 yards and was downed at the Washington 18-yard line by Arnaz Battle. That gave Sepulveda a 49-yard net average after three punts.
  • Sepulveda and Jeremy Kapinos punted a combined eight times, for a gross average of 50.4 yards and a net average of 45.6, with five kicks downed inside the 20-yard line and no touchbacks.
  • On the Steelers' lone touchdown drive – 80 yards on four plays midway though the second quarter – Antonio Brown caught two passes for 50 of those yards and then Isaac Redman finished it with a 22-yard run into the end zone in which he showed some nice shiftiness in the open field for someone who weighs 230 pounds.
  • Preseason openers can be notorious for sloppy play, but through three quarters the Steelers had no turnovers and had been flagged for no penalties. They finished the game with no turnovers and two penalties for 10 yards – a 5-yard illegal contact call on CB Niles Brinkley, and a delay of game call on QB Dennis Dixon.

* On the Steelers' opening series, Mike Wallace got behind CB Josh Wilson, but Ben Roethlisberger's throw sailed over his head. It appeared as though Wallace slowed for just a fraction with the ball in the air.

  • Officials in midseason form – On a 16-yard run by Tim Hightower on the Redskins opening possession, NT Casey Hampton was tackled by C Will Montgomery right in front of umpire Scott Dawson. No flag was thrown, and Hampton couldn't believe it.
  • After Isaac Redman's 22-yard touchdown run tied the score, 7-7, with 4:13 left in the first half, Shaun Suisham's kickoff traveled 6-yards deep into the end zone. But Brandon Banks decided to bring it out, and he returned it 58 yards.
  • The kick return aspect of the game weighed heavily in the Redskins' favor. In addition to Banks' 58-yard kickoff return, the Redskins got a 19-yard punt return from Banks and another 19-yard punt return from Terrence Austin. The Steelers had no kickoff return yardage because all five of Washington's kickoffs were touchbacks, and they got just a 9-yard punt return from Armand Robinson.
  • Redskins quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kellen Clemens attempted 43 passes that gained 312 yards, but they were not sacked and the Steelers were credited with only three passes defensed – one by Ryan Mundy, one by Larry Foote and one was credited to James Harrison by the Redskins stats crew, but Harrison didn't even dress for the game.
  • The Steelers were 2-for-11 on third downs, including 0-for-4 in the first half when the quarterbacks were Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.

Said Coach Mike Tomlin, "Ike Taylor broke his left thumb. He could be out for a couple of weeks or so. Whether that will require surgery remains to be seen, but he did break his left thumb. Sunny Harris has a foot injury; Wes Lyons has a concussion; Crezdon had a quad injury and wasn't able to finish; and Keenan Lewis had a calf injury and wasn't able to finish."

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