One of the biggest storylines going into Monday's game with the Steelers is the matchup between cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Antonio Brown, with two of the top players in league getting a chance to face-off.*
The first week of the NFL season is always exciting, as months of analysis finally go away and the games actually get going again. Getting to play on Monday Night Football at home in front of a national audience? That makes it even better.
The anticipation surrounding Monday's game is high for a variety of reasons, but perhaps none greater than the individual matchup of Redskins cornerback Josh Norman against Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. And they happen to be two of the league's best.
Norman and Brown are each considered among the top players at their respective positions and will likely face off at least a few times.
"When you look at a wide receiver in the NFL, you don't have to stop anywhere other than Antonio Brown. It starts and it ends with him," Norman said. "That's going to be a tall task to take on and I respect that 110 percent. I'm looking forward to what he will bring because that matchup is obviously going to be a physical one and it's going to be a fun one."
But it won't be an easy one. Only Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison has caught more than the 136 catches Brown had last year. Brown has also caught more passes than any player in the NFL over a two-season span.
"The thing you've got to realize, too, yes, [No.] 84 (Brown) is one of the best in the business, there's no doubt, but this is the National Football League. There's big-time matchup issues every single week," Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "But he definitely is one but that's the challenge every week. That's the exciting thing about competition and going and competing against the best. We're definitely going up against one of the best on Monday night."
With the Steelers lacking a consistent receiving threat opposite Brown, appearances will come from Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates. Norman's attention will most likely solely be focused on slowing down Brown, though. Most defenses have struggled to figure out the best way to do that, partly because the Steelers do a good job of moving Brown around.
With Brown moving around so much there is also the potential for him to have to deal with third-year Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland as well. The Redskins hope it will help them when Brown switches sides of the field to not just have Norman shadowing Brown all the time.
"I think with what Pittsburgh does, they do such a great job… It's easier to do that when a guy is in one spot all the time. When you say, 'OK, in this formation, he's going to be here. In this formation he's going to be here.' Kind of the theme with elite No. 1 wideouts with every team now, they do such a good job of moving him around so you can't get a bead on him," Barry said. "We'll deploy a certain, different number of players on him, but they counter-balance that just by moving him around."
This works especially well for Pittsburgh when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the one sending the ball Brown's way, as Brown had just 11 catches for 111 yards in three games without Roethlisberger last year, however still finished with his impressive 1,834 yards overall in 2015, showing the impact his quarterback can have. And while Roethlisberger understands the matchup, he isn't going to put his focus in one place.
"I'm not going to worry about trying to beat Josh," Roethlisberger said. "He's one of the best in the business. Him and AB [Antonio Brown] will I'm sure have plenty of talking matches and jabbering back-and-forth. For me, it's about trying to go out and just beat the Redskins."
But what exactly should Brown & Co. be preparing for in terms of Norman?
He is coming off his best year as an NFL player after helping the Carolina Panthers finish the regular season with a 15-1 record. Norman had 48 total tackles, 19 passes defended and four interceptions, earning All-Pro honors in the process.
Brown and Norman haven't really had much of a look at each other in the NFL, only briefly facing off in a game in 2014, but the Coastal Carolina product wasn't a full-time starter during that game and certainly wasn't the player he is now.
But with the chance to start his career in Washington with an exclamation point, Norman appears to be very aware that this may be no simple task, but ready for the challenge.
"Going into this game, I don't know if it's a matchup or not, but I'm going to go out there and do the best that I can to guard a guy like that," Norman said.