Washington Football Team vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Matchup Preview (12/7/): Betting Odds, Depth Charts, Live Stream (Watch Online)
Date: Sunday, December 7th, 2020
Time: 5:00 PM ET
Location: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
TV Coverage: FOX
Football Team vs. Steelers Live Stream
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Washington Football Team: OT Morgan Moses (groin) Q, DE Ryan Anderson (knee) Q, LB Reuben Foster (knee) Q, CB Greg Stroman (foot) Q, WR Antonio Gandy-Golden (hamstring) Q, OT Geron Christian (knee) IR, S Landon Collins (Achilles) IR, QB Kyle Allen (ankle) IR
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Jaylen Samuels (quadriceps) Q, CB Steven Nelson (knee) Q, DE Stephon Tuitt (COVID-19) IR, RB James Conner (COVID-19) IR, C Maurkice Pouncey (COVID-19) IR, RB Trey Edmunds (hamstring) IR, TE Zach Gentry (knee) IR, LB Bud Dupree (ACL) IR
Washington Football Team Analysis
A leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year this season, Alex Smith’s recovery from his brutal leg injury that almost cost him his life last year has been absolutely mesmerizing. The fact alone that he’s even on the field is awe-inspiring, so I don’t want to disparage him too much, but it needs to be noted that his play has been fairly underwhelming. His QBR of 39.9 would be the second-worst among all qualified quarterbacks, and he’s throwing for just 213.4 yards per game. He has 3 touchdowns to 5 interceptions so far and has thrown for under 170 yards in each of his past two games. His offensive line hasn’t helped him much as he’s been sacked 3.2 times per game, the third-most in the NFL. He has a brutal matchup this week against a stout Steelers defense.
Rookie running back Antonio Gibson has been the big story for Washington lately as he ran the ball 20 times for 115 yards and a whopping 3 touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Despite poor blocking in front of him, Gibson has run the ball at an impressive 4.6 YPC clip. He’s on a 16-game pace of 202 carries for 938 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he’s run for 90+ yards in three of his last five games. He’s also on pace to add 47 catches for 339 yards. His production has been particularly impressive since Peyton Barber, and J.D. McKissic has also been very involved in the offense. McKissic often lines up in the slot and runs routes over the middle of the field – he’s on pace for 67 catches for 491 yards and 72 carries for 323 yards. His role is amplified in pass-heavy game scripts, which Washington should find themselves in this week against Pittsburgh.
Terry McLaurin has been the best offensive player for Washington this season, and his consistent production amidst three different starting quarterbacks has been very impressive. McLaurin has produced 69 catches for 963 yards and 3 touchdowns in his second season – that’s a 16-game pace of 99 catches for 1,400 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s undoubtedly one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and it’s crazy to think about what his numbers would look like if he were on more of a functional offense than Washington. Outside of McLaurin and McKissic, the rest of the Washington pass-catchers have been overwhelmed. Logan Thomas is third on the team with 34 catches for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns. Isaiah Wright and Dontrelle Inman both have under 200 receiving yards for the season, although Inman does have 2 receiving touchdowns.
While Alex Smith has taken a pretty high number of sacks, the Washington offensive line has been better than most expect. However, injuries to their starting tackles in Geron Christian and Morgan Moses puts them in a precarious position against the Steelers’ ferocious front seven. The interior of the offensive line has been solid. Soon-to-be free agent Brandon Scherff has earned himself a large contract and former 6th-round picks in Chase Roullier and Wes Schweitzer have had very productive seasons. However, this offense as a whole has been underwhelmed as they’ve scored just 21.9 points per game, the 8th-fewest, and have the 7th-fewest offensive yards per game.
This Washington team’s strength has been its defense, which is consistently underrated among casual NFL fans. The Washington defense ranks 7th in points allowed (22.1 per game) and 7th in yards allowed (325.3 per game). Second-year defensive end Montez Sweat has been dominant with 13 quarterback hits, 6 sacks, and 7 tackles for a loss, all team-leading numbers. Rookie defensive end Chase Young has impressed on the other side of the field with 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss. Meanwhile, Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen have provided stout interior play. Simultaneously, Ryan Kerrigan, Jonathan Bostic, and Cole Holcomb round out perhaps the best front seven in football (although the Steelers would dispute that claim). The Washington pass defense has also been excellent as they’ve allowed the 2nd-fewest passing yards per game – Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby have quietly been one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL, and their lives are made easy by the front seven having the third-most sacks this season.
Washington Football Team Depth Chart
Pittsburgh Steelers Team Analysis
While Alex Smith is a leading Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Ben Roethlisberger has his own case to be made for the award. He ranks 12th among all qualified quarterbacks in passer rating and has thrown for 2,800 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions so far. That’s good for a 16-game pace of 4,072 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Roethlisberger’s command of the line of scrimmage and mental connection with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has stood out as the Steelers run complex passing plays, and Big Ben makes some phenomenal reads of the field. He’s only taken 10 sacks through 11 games as the Steelers’ offensive line has been one of the best in pass protection, and the team’s talented receiving weapons have been crucial to his success.
It’s a good thing the Steelers can rely on their passing attack as their run game has been underwhelming all year. James Conner has had an up-and-down season, and while he is on pace for 1,000+ rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, his production has come in waves with some poor down games along the way. Benny Snell has filled in at times, but he’s rushing at just a 3.5 YPC clip and has 255 yards on 73 carries with 3 touchdowns. Rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. has provided nice change-of-pace play at times. Jaylen Samuels has been virtually nonexistent with just 3 carries for 8 yards this season. Conner remains on the COVID-19 Injured Reserve, and with his medical history, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him sit out another week. Pittsburgh is almost definitely going to be in the market for a new running back this offseason.
On the flip side, the Steelers may boast the best receiving corps in the NFL. JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team with 66 catches for 572 yards and 6 touchdowns, overcoming a slow start to the season lately with some impressive performances. He’s on pace for 96 catches for 832 yards and 9 touchdowns. Diontae Johnson is in the midst of a full-scale sophomore breakout with 57 catches for 583 yards and 4 touchdowns – that’s good for a 16-game pace of 91 catches for 932 yards and 6 touchdowns. Rookie Chase Claypool has been awesome as well, with 45 catches for a team-leading 611 yards and 8 touchdowns. That puts him on pace for 66 yards for 888 yards and 12 touchdowns. Randy Moss’s record of 17 touchdowns in his rookie year likely won’t be broken by Claypool, but he’s still putting together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent history. Even tight end Eric Ebron has been very productive with 42 catches for 413 yards and 4 touchdowns. Regardless of who opposing defenses look to take away, it feels like the Steelers always have someone capable of winning one-on-one in coverage.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been excellent in pass protection as they’re allowing just 0.9 sacks per game, the fewest in the NFL. However, the Steelers are averaging just 3.8 YPC as a team, the sixth-lowest mark in the NFL. Alejandro Villanueva has been a stalwart at left tackle while David DeCastro and Matt Feiler have been solid at guard. However, Maurkice Pouncey has been ineffective or injured this year, while J.C. Hassenauer hasn’t done great in his absence. Chukwuma Okorafor has been a bit of a liability at right tackle, which could prove problematic against Washington with Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Pittsburgh’s offensive line has missed Mike Munchak, now the offensive line coach for the Broncos.
Defensively, the Steelers may boast the best unit in the NFL top-to-bottom. They’re holding opponents to 17.1 points per game, the fewest in the NFL, and 298.9 yards per game, the third-fewest in the NFL. The team’s defensive line is absurd, with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree dominating as outside pass-rushers. Simultaneously, Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alalu, and Chris Wormley have all been stout on the interior. Watt, in particular, is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year as he leads the NFL with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. Dupree hit Injured Reserve, and the Steelers fear a torn ACL for him. However, Stephon Tuitt should be able to return this week. Vince Williams and Robert Spillane have done a solid job in the absence of Devin Bush, who was lost for the season, while Minkah Fitzpatrick is leading all safeties in the AFC in Pro Bowl voting. Steven Nelson and Joe Haden have also been a dynamic duo at the outside corner. It’s no surprise that this team allows the fewest passing yards per game with this crew.
Pittsburgh Steelers Depth Chart
Spread: Steelers -8, Washington +8
Moneyline: Steelers -410, Washington +330
Don’t be fooled by the Steelers’ 5-point win over the Ravens last week – they dominated throughout the game and would have won by double-digits if not for a surprising late touchdown thrown by Trace McSorely to Marquise Brown on a blown coverage. Washington did score 41 points last week, but lots of that came on favorable field position due to turnovers and punts by Dallas. I don’t see how Washington puts up any significant number of points against this Steelers defense, and Vegas seems to agree as Washington’s implied points total is just 17.25 points for this game. I’m not even sure if they can get to that number with the way Alex Smith has played, and I’m fading Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin hard this week. The Steelers don’t have the type of ground game to balance out their offense against a stout Washington pass defense, and I believe this will be an ugly game overall with lots of punts on both sides. A couple of Washington turnovers could quickly change the tune of this game, but I’m projecting a slow, grind-it-out contest between two phenomenal defenses. I’ll pick Washington to keep it within 8 points, and I’m pushing hard on the under.
My predictions: Steelers win 23-17, Washington covers, under 42.5 points
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- DraftKings Illinois
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- DraftKings Michigan
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Daily Fantasy Picks
This isn’t a game to target for DFS purposes, but McLaurin is likely still safe enough to deploy this week. He has 13+ PPR points in each of his last six games and 17+ PPR points in three of those. The Steelers have surprisingly allowed the 15th-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers as they’ve been susceptible to big plays at times. McLaurin has 7+ targets in every game this season and provides enough of a baseline to keep him on the fantasy radar, as concerned as I am about the Washington offense as a whole.
JuJu leads the Steelers in receptions this season, and while he hasn’t had a terribly exciting season, he does have 17+ PPR points in three of his last four games. He will also be facing the softer Washington coverage in the slot instead of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, who will be matched up with Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby on the outside. I’m not thrilled about any Pittsburgh receivers this week, but JuJu at least provides a solid baseline with 7+ targets in all but one of his last six games. He also has scored a touchdown in three of his last four outings, so the baseline is there despite the brutal matchup.
In the brutal landscape of tight ends in fantasy football, Eric Ebron has provided solid value as of late with double-digit PPR points in five of his last six games. He has 5+ targets in every game over that span, with three touchdowns over the past six weeks. While Washington has been stout against wide receivers, they have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season, and that has especially been true after Landon Collins’s season-ending injury. Ebron is a reliable option at a position of unreliability and could see more volume with the receivers on this team facing tough coverage.