What happened: The Steelers surprised everyone by going with the onside kick to start the game, though they went offsides and the Redskins recovered it — while also picking up a quick momentum boost and an easy three points to take the early lead. The Redskins then snared a rare interception, securing excellent field position for a second consecutive drive, and went deep to Moss on the very next play, though it fell incomplete in the end zone; eventually, the Redskins had to kick another field goal. The Steelers next came out running, then sacked Roethlisberger to end the drive. The teams traded punts to close the opening session.
Analysis: Pittsburgh came out trying to make a statement with the short squib kick, and it backfired; had Washington been able to sustain the drive, it could have taken the Steelers out of the game early. The Redskins also came out aggressive on offense but couldn’t complete key passes on third down. Dropped passes proved to be a bigger problem for the Steelers, though.
What happened: The Steelers sacked Campbell on the first play, forcing a punt. And here starts the trend: The teams traded punts on all but two of the eight possesions as each had difficulties moving the football. Two long Hines Ward pass plays got the Steelers in position for a field goal that cut the lead to 6-3. That sixth punt, by Washington’s Ryan Plackemeier, was a game-changer though, as the Steelers blocked it. Five plays later, Roethlisberger went up the middle for the game’s first touchdown, putting Pittsburgh up 10-6.
Analysis: The Steelers finally started connecting on passes in the second quarter, especially to Ward, who came within a yard — and an impressive Carlos Rogers tackle — of scoring the first touchdown. Rogers, meanwhile, allowed that reception, as well as an earlier one that set up the first Steelers field goal, and — perhaps even more crucial — dropped another interception right in his chest that he could have easily returned for a touchdown. Washington, meanwhile, failed to convert even once on third down in the quarter.
What happened: Roethlisberger stayed in the locker room, meaning District native Byron Leftwich, late of the Falcons and Jaguars, took the field to lead the Steelers offense. His first drive ended in the end zone, with Willie Parker scoring before Reed missed the extra point. After two more run of the mill punts, the Redskins finally started putting a drive together — only to see it end along with Jason Campbell’s streak of passes thrown without an interception; his 250th attempt of the season was tipped by Clinton Portis and picked off by Pittsburgh’s Deshea Townsend.
Analysis: Despite the switch at quarterback, the Steelers kept the momentum built before halftime and came out slinging it — including a 50-yard pass to Nate Washington on the first drive. And if that didn’t take the Redskins out of the game, then Campbell’s first interception since last season surely did, sucking the wind out of the team on its best, most promising drive of the game.