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Washington Vs. Steelers Preview: Time To Make A Statement

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Washington plays the Steelers in 2016. (File photo)

Coming off its biggest win of the season, the Washington Football Team (4-7) will travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0) on Monday evening. Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Week 13 matchup:

GAMEDAY INFORMATION:

Date: Dec. 7

Time 5 p.m. ET

Location: Heinz Field (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

WATCH: FOX

  • Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play)
  • Daryl Johnston (analyst)
  • Pam Oliver (reporter)

LISTEN: The Team 980, ESPN 630 and WMAL 105.9

  • Julie Donaldson (host)
  • Bram Weinstein (play-by-play)
  • DeAngelo Hall (analyst)

A stream of the radio broadcast will also be available at WashingtonFootball.com and on select Washington Football Team social media platforms.

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Washington leads the all-time series, 42-33-3.
  • Washington and Pittsburgh have never met in the playoffs.
  • The two teams first met Oct. 4, 1933, when the Boston Braves secured a 21-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Washington defeated Pittsburgh 12 straight times from 1938-45 and shut out the Steelers in five of those games.
  • Washington has not beaten Pittsburgh since 1991. It has lost six times by an average of 14.2 points during that stretch.
  • Washington's most recent matchup with Pittsburgh came on Sept. 12, 2016. The Steelers ran away with a 38-16 victory.

The Washington Football team held practice at the Inova Sports Performance Center in Ashburn, Virginia, on Dec. 02, 2020. (Photos courtesy of Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team and Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

COACHING STAFF

Washington:

  • Head coach Ron Rivera (1st season in Washington)
  • Offensive coordinator Scott Turner (1st)
  • Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (1st)
  • Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor (2nd)

Pittsburgh:

  • Head coach Mike Tomlin (14th season in Pittsburgh)
  • Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner (14th; 3rd as offensive coordinator)
  • Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler (18th; 6th as defensive coordinator)
  • Special teams coordinator Danny Smith (8th)

BIGGEST STORYLINES

-- Comeback Player of the Year Favorites Square Off: Alex Smith spent the entire 2019 campaign recovering from a gruesome leg injury that almost cost him his life. Ben Roethlisberger played three halves before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.

But on Monday night in Pittsburgh, the veteran quarterbacks will square off with both teams in playoff contention.

"He's a Hall of Fame player," the 36-year-old Smith said of the 38-year-old Roethlisberger. "The thing that has impressed me so much through the arch of his career is how much he's developed. As time has gone on, he's done it so many different ways. When he was a young guy, he made so many ad-lib plays and so many [plays] with his legs, the pump fakes, the breaking tackles.

"In the last five years or so, to see how prolific he's become from the pocket and how good that part of his game is, how elite it is. With his age and how many games he's played and last year, he had the elbow problems and surgery and rehab and then to come out firing [11-0] -- it says a lot about him, not only as a player but I think the work ethic, the mindset that goes into that. You certainly appreciate it from afar."

Roethlisberger has been nearly flawless in his 17th NFL season. The six-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion has completed 67.5% of his passes for 2,800 yards. He's thrown 25 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions. These statistics have helped the Steelers because the 13th team to start 11-0 during the Super Bowl era.

Smith has not been nearly as productive statistically -- he has more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (three) in five games -- but what he has been able to accomplish coming off a two-year absence is remarkable. Washington is 2-1 in Smith's starts this season and 8-4 in games Smith has started and finished since 2018. The third starting quarterbak this season, Smith is in position to lead a young team to the playoffs under first-year coach Ron Rivera.

"I think he's getting more and more comfortable back there," Rivera said in mid-November. "[The] decision-making is getting quicker. He's seeing some of the really good decisions, some excellent throws, put the ball where he needed to. It was good to see. It really was. Going forward, he's really just getting stronger and stronger."

-- 25 And Under: Of the 12 combined receivers on Washington and Pittsburgh, the average age is 24.6. And these are not just young wideouts trying to figure out how to produce at the NFL level.

Terry McLaurin is already one of the better receivers despite being midway through his second season, while Pittsburgh has perhaps the best young receiving trio in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. Through 12 weeks, they've combined for 168 catches, 1,766 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Even if you're not a fan of either team, these pass-catchers make this Monday evening showdown worth watching.

"Claypool's been an exciting addition to them," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "He brings size, speed, play-making ability. Obviously, Big Ben has gotten comfortable with him and likes him a lot. I think JuJu has established himself. He's a good football player. The guy's really physical. [TE Eric] Ebron catches a lot of balls as well. They've got a good group. No matter where you look -- tight ends, receivers, backs -- they've got a very capable group of people. Obviously with Big Ben pulling the trigger, it makes them very formidable."

-- Battle Of The Trenches: The Steelers are undefeated in large part because they protect Roethlisberger (league-best 10 sacks allowed) and hound opposing quarterbacks (league-best 41.0 sacks).

However, there is a chance neither unit is at full strength against Washington. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (seven sacks) missed the Ravens' game and are still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Steelers will be without linebacker Bud Dupree (eight sacks), who was placed on Injured Reserve with a season-ending knee injury.

Washington's defense ranks second in the league with 36.0 sacks, and its offensive line has been formidable since Smith took over as the starting quarterback. Plus, there's a good chance tackle Cornelius Lucas will return after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. That would allow right tackle Morgan Moses to slide back over to his natural position.

If Washington intends to upset the Steelers, it must give Smith time to throw and figure out a way to fluster Roethlisberger, who is getting rid of the ball historically fast.

INDIVIDUAL STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Alex Smith (1,067)
  • Passing TDs -- QBs Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Kyle Allen (4)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB Antonio Gibson (645)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB Antonio Gibson (11)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Terry McLaurin (963)
  • Receiving TDs -- TE Logan Thomas (4)
  • Tackles -- LB Jon Bostic (76)
  • Sacks -- DE Montez Sweat (6.0)
  • Interceptions -- CB Kendall Fuller (4)

Pittsburgh:

  • Passing Yards -- QB Ben Roethlisberger (2,800)
  • Passing TDs -- QB Ben Roethlisberger (25)
  • Rushing Yards -- RB James Conner (645)
  • Rushing TDs -- RB James Conner (5)
  • Receiving Yards -- WR Chase Claypool (611)
  • Receiving TDs -- WR Chase Claypool (8)
  • Tackles -- MLB Vince Williams (56)
  • Sacks -- OLB T.J. Watt (11.0)
  • Interceptions -- SS Minkah Fitzpatrick (4)

TEAM STATS LEADERS

Washington:

  • Total offense -- 26th (325.3 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 24th (21.9 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 24th (218.6 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- T-29th (35)
  • Rushing offense -- 19th (106.6 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 24th (39.7%)
  • Total defense -- 4th (309.5 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 7th (22.1 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 2nd (194.6 YPG)
  • Sacks -- 2nd (36)
  • Rushing defense -- 15th (114.9 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 10th (37.9%)
  • Time of possession -- 15th (30:15)
  • Turnover differential -- T-25th (-5)

Pittsburgh:

  • Total offense -- 22nd (346.5 YPG)
  • Scoring offense -- 6th (28.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense -- 16th (247.5 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed -- 1st (10)
  • Rushing offense -- 25th (99.1 YPG)
  • Third-down offense -- 6th (46.0%)
  • Total defense -- 3rd (298.9 YPG)
  • Scoring defense -- 1st (17.1 PPG)
  • Passing defense -- 1st (193.2 YPG)
  • Sacks -- 1st (41)
  • Rushing defense -- 8th (105.7 YPG)
  • Third-down defense -- 8th (37.5%)
  • Time of possession -- 2nd (32:18)
  • Turnover differential -- 1st (+12)

INJURY REPORT

Check out the injury report for Washington's Week 13 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, HERE.

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