NFL Monday Afternoon Football: Steelers/Football Team Preview

by Big Al Staff

The opening game of the Monday NFL doubleheader has the Washington Football Team visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 5 PM ET kickoff.

Washington has raised their record to a 4-7 mark with two straight victories after they defeated Dallas on the road on Thanksgiving by a 41-16 score. The Football Team needs to win this game to keep pace with the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East after the Giants upset Seattle on the road by a 17-12 score yesterday.

The Football Team has been playing underrated defense all season. They rank eighth in the league in stopping the pass and fifth in the league against the run. They registered four sacks against the Cowboys last week, which gives them 20 sacks in four games. Washington is second in the NFL with 36 sacks, and their 66 hits on the quarterback are also the second-most.

What has made Ron Rivera’s team better as of late has been the stability at the quarterback position that Alex Smith has provided since he became the starter. Smith is completing 69%% of his passes, which is 5th best in the league. Washington is scoring 29.3 points-per-game while averaging 375.7 yards-per-game in their last three games with Smith under center. Yet the Football Team is averaging only 213.4 passing yards-per-game with Smith, and he has thrown only three touchdown passes with five interceptions. Smith is averaging only 4.9 air yards per pass attempt, which is the lowest in the league for qualifying quarterbacks. Smith is likely to win Comeback Player of the Year with his remarkable comeback from his leg injury last season. However, Smith is no longer as mobile as he plays behind an offensive line that has allowed 35 sacks, which is the second-most in the league.

Pittsburgh remained undefeated this season with their 19-14 victory over Baltimore last Wednesday as a 10.5-point favorite. Ben Roethlisberger completed 36 of 51 passes for 266 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the win. Roethlisberger is completing 67.5% of his passes for 2800 yards with 25 touchdown passes and six interceptions. The veteran QB gets rid of the football in the pocket in just 2.28 seconds, which is the quickest release in the NFL. He has only ten sacks. Roethlisberger missed the last three practices this week as he deals with a sore knee, but he expects to still play in this game. Big Ben did not practice before their game with Cincinnati last month, but that did not stop him from completing 27 of 46 passes for 333 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Roethlisberger later tongue-in-cheek requested that he get to skip practices all the time after that effort. Head coach Mike Tomlin quickly dismissed that request.

The Steelers lead the NFL by holding their opponents to just 17.7 points-per-game. They are also best in the league by allowing only 193.2 passing yards-per-game. However, Pittsburgh suffered a blow to their defense with the season-ending injury to linebacker Bud Dupree. The Steelers were playing without linebacker Devin Bush who endured a season-ending injury earlier in the year. Pittsburgh has eight of the team’s league-leading 41 sacks this season.

BetOnline lists the Steelers as a 6.5-point favorite with the total set at 43.5. Fox broadcasts the game in 45% of the markets.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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