LANDOVER, Md. - In a game loaded with big plays, perhaps none was bigger than a defensive play made by an offensive lineman.
All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey's strip of Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan following a Ben Roethlisberger fumble deep in Pittsburgh territory late in the first quarter of Pittsburgh's 38-16 win Monday night might get overlooked in a game loaded with big plays. But it's hard to say any play was bigger than that.
With the Steelers trailing, 6-0, and looking a little listless on offense, Kerrigan knocked the ball out of Roethlisberger's hand and picked it up and tried to run with it. Pouncey jumped on his back and knocked the ball free, allowing Roethlisberger to fall on the loose ball.
When was the last time Pouncey forced a fumble?
"Oh man, probably little league maybe," Pouncey said with his trademark smile. "There was no way I was going to let him score on us. We've seen that too many times.
"That was huge. That could have been a momentum swinger in the game. It was awesome. We got the ball back and were able to convert."
Facing second-and-22 at his own 13 following the fumble, Roethlisberger completed a dumpoff to DeAngelo Williams that went for 14 yards, then went to Antonio Brown for a 13-yard gain. The drive culminated with Roethlisberger throwing a perfect rainbow to Brown, who beat double coverage, on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 29. The throw to Brown was called in the huddle.
"We play to win," said Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin.
Pouncey and company looked at it another way.
"We've got a lot of balls," he said. "The playcalling was excellent and Ben does a great job of running this team. When you've got a guy like that, it makes things easy."
* Playing in his first NFL game after missing all of last season because of injury, the stage of playing in a Monday night game didn't overwhelm Eli Rogers.
If not for Pouncey's forced fumble or Brown's catch on fourth-and-1, it might have been Rogers who had the play of the game.
On fourth-and-1 from the Washington 34, Rogers ran a little crossing route and Roethlisberger hit him in stride for a 19-yard gain.
"It was a designed play," said Rogers, who finished with six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown, all of which came in the first half. "I had a drag across the field and I just caught the ball and I went upfield.
"It just shows the confidence (Roethlisberger) has in me. It's a blessing."
The confidence might be founded.
A few plays later, Rogers caught his first career TD pass in spectacular fashion.
Roethlisberger threw a quick slant to Sammie Coates, who had lined up outside of Rogers. But corner Breshaud Breeland made a good break on the pass and he and Coates tipped it into the air -- from where Rogers snagged it for a score right before the half.
"I actually kind of messed up," Rogers said. "I was a little flat and I slowed down. The ball was thrown and I heard it bounce of somebody's chest or shoulder pads. I kind of followed it, saw it in the air and caught it."
* Cam Heyward is something of a perfectionist. Even though his unit held the line early in this game until the offense could get into a rhythm, Heyward wasn't happy.
"The pass rush sucked today," Heyward said. "I've got to get to the quarterback and today we didn't do that. Our DBs and linebackers covered their tails off. We've got to be better up front. We've got to get more pressure on the quarterback, especially going up against Andy Dalton and that offense (this weekend)."
* Ryan Shazier said he doesn't think his knee injury is serious and that he expects to play next weekend against the Bengals.
That's good news because as we saw in this game, that young man is an emerging star.
* As Tomlin walked to the locker room after addressing the media, he saw team president Art Rooney II and GM Kevin Colbert coming toward him in the hallway. Tomlin began pumping his fist and yelling, "Yes. Yes. Yes."
"That's AFC North football," Tomlin yelled.
* The Redskins obviously weren't up to the challenge of handling a team that could both run and pass the ball.
"We felt like we had a good enough game plan to combat some of the things they were trying to do," said safety DeAngelo Hall. "But they got the run game going and took a couple of shots and we were just off balance. We were just off balance the whole night."