Another Monday night, another Pittsburgh win.
Luckily for me, my night at Fedex Field in Landover, MD was a very good one. Of course it started out a little bumpy, falling behind early, 6-0 after head coach Mike Tomlin's surprise onside kick attempt on the opening kickoff failed. So, Jason Campbell and his Skins started out with great field position, but only managed a field goal. After Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense was held to a three and out on their first possession, the Skins got the ball back. Quickly, they pulled ahead with another Shaun Suisham field goal, this one from 43 yards out.
Well, I surely wasn't used to this. Pittsburgh is usually able to get a quick lead and then pound the ball in the second half. Although that wasn't the case this Monday night. Roethlisberger attempted 17 first-half passes, only completing five of them. But kicker Jeff Reed hit a 35-yard field goal halfway through the second quarter, making it a 6-3 game.
I have failed to mention that Willie Parker finally returned to the lineup, but was ineffective early on. The best part of the whole game had to be the thousands and thousands of Steelers fans in DC waving their terrible towels proudly. The Steelers fans sitting right in front of me, wearing a Jerome Bettis jersey, predicted six Pittsburgh sacks. We witnessed FOUR in the first half as the Black and Gold. The Andre Frazier punt block with just over two minutes to go in the half set up a 1-yard run by Roethlisberger. The touchdown gave the Steelers the 10-6 lead. I must say, us Steelers fans were going crazy by then. In other words, it was LOUD. Unfortunately, the fans around me (including me), were unaware of the injury to Big Ben because we couldn't even hear the guy over the loudspeaker, but Roethlisberger ran into the locker room before the rest of the team thanks to an aggravation of his previously hurt shoulder.
We didn't realize he was out of the game until Byron Leftwich, the former Jacksonville Jaguars QB, ran out onto the field. It looked like they were keeping Dennis Dixon warm for most of the second half, too. When I saw him run out onto the field, of course I became a little worried. But that feeling didn't last for very long. Leftwich drove the Steelers down the field on their first second-half possession. The 8-play, 72 yard scoring drive was capped off with a 1-yard TD run by Willie Parker. Leftwich really got the "home" crowd going after his 50-yard pass completion to wide receiver Nate Washington. Leftwich finished the drive 2 for 3 for 57 yards, Reed missed the extra point, but it didn't really end up making a difference. 16-6 PIT.
It was all downhill for the Skins at this point. Campbell was sacked by Pittsburgh's blitz-happy defense three more times in the second half, and ended up throwing his first two interceptions of the season against them. Washington's next two drives were worthless, only gaining one first down between the two, and their last drive of the third quarter ended with a Deshea Townsend interception, which was challenged but the play stood as called on the field. Interception! First one of the season for Campbell.
On the Steelers ensuing drive Leftwich was sacked for -8 yards on the first play, and faced a 3rd and 15 after a three yard run for Parker. What does Leftwich do? Well, all he does is throw a 16-yard strike to Santonio Holmes (who, btw, just returned to the lineup after a one-game suspension) for a first down. Leftwich went 5 for 6 for 72 yards and a touchdown on yet another Steelers scoring drive, which was capped with his second Touchdown pass as a Pittsburgh Steeler. The 6-5, 250 pound Leftwich, 28, finished the game 7 for 10 for 129 yards and a TD.
His surprising performance totally eclipsed Big Ben's embarrassing first-half performance in which he accumulated a 15.1 QB Rating and a interception. Ben's status for Sunday's home game against the 4-4 Indianapolis Colts is uncertain, but I have a feeling we could be seeing a lot of Leftwich, which may not be a bad thing. Byron looked very calm in the pocket despite the Redskins defenders collapsing the pocket around him. The Skins defense, in fact, is number 4 in the League right now.
But, the story of the night was surely the number one rated defense, that is the Pittsburgh Steelers! This defense sacked Campbell for a total of 7 times and picked off two of his passes, like I said before. I don't think Campbell will be able to vote today, I don't think he will even be able to move a bone in his body after last night.
Pittsburgh is now 4-0 on Monday night under the young Mike Tomlin.