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Steelers rout Redskins, provide reason to believe Super Bowl hype

There are so many interesting ways to slice and dice the Steelers’ season-opening 38-16 win over the Redskins Monday night in Washington.

It was the Steelers’ sixth straight win over the Redskins. The last time the Redskins beat the Steelers was 1991, the year of their last championship.

It was the first time the Steelers won a prime time opener on the road since beating the Browns 43-0 in 1999. They had been 0-3 in such games since then.

It was just the Steelers’ second Week 1 victory in the last six years, and the first time they started the season with a convincing win since beating the visiting Texans 38-17 in 2008.

That was the year of the Steelers’ last championship. Of course it’s way too early to reserve rooms in Houston for Super Bowl LI, but so far there’s little reason to dispute the prognosticators who are picking the Steelers to get that far.

The most telling number crunch is the fact that the Steelers’ 22-point margin of victory was their biggest on the road since they won 41-9 at Cleveland in Week 17 of the 2010 season.

Five of their last six road victories by 22 or more came in Super Bowl seasons.

They also won 38-13 at Tampa Bay in 2010, the year they went to Super Bowl XLV.

In 2008, the year they won Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers beat the Patriots without Tom Brady 33-10 at New England and hammered the Bengals 38-10 at Cincinnati.

In 2005, the year they won Super Bowl XL, the Steelers won 41-0 at Cleveland on Christmas Eve.

The combined record of those opponents was 36-43-1. There were some weaklings in that sample, but what this means is that the ability to win by three touchdowns away from home is a good sign for the Steelers regardless of who they’re playing.

The Steelers overcame a slow start Monday night and ultimately took care of business on the road like championship contenders do.

The Redskins got into the red zone twice in the first quarter but the Steelers held them to field goals both times. Those 6-0 leads that should be 14-0 never seem to hold up, and the Redskins’ 6-0 lead stood for six minutes. Ben Roethlisberger’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown on 4th-and-1 with 10 minutes left in the first half made it 7-6 and the Steelers didn’t trail again.

The Steelers’ lead increased to 24-6 when Brown caught his second touchdown pass with seven minutes left in the third quarter. The Redskins narrowed that lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter, and that’s when the Steelers showed some mental toughness. They ground out a 13-play drive that took 7:13 off the clock and capped it with DeAngelo Williams’ 15-yard touchdown run to make it 31-16.

After stopping the Redskins on downs, the Steelers threw the knockout punch when Williams (143 yards) got the ball five times on a six-play drive and gained 29 yards, scoring from six yards out for the final margin.

Despite making the playoffs for the first time in three years, the Steelers lacked mental toughness in 2014. They lost to the 4-12 Jets and the 2-14 Buccaneers and folded like a cheap tent in the playoffs when Le’Veon Bell was injured.

Last year, they stamped out any doubts about their mental toughness by making the playoffs despite being without Maurkice Pouncey for the whole season, Kelvin Beachum and Bell for more than half the season and Roethlisberger for a quarter of the season. Then in the playoffs they gave the Broncos all they could handle without Brown, Bell and Williams.

That fortitude was on display Monday night when the Steelers quelled the Redskins’ uprising.

We’ll learn a lot more about the 2016 Steelers next week when they host the hated Bengals. But for now it’s so far, so good.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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