LANDOVER, Md. — Rex Grossman's opening statement in his case to become the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback began in the shadow of his own goal posts. On his first play, he dropped back into the end zone and hit Santana Moss over the middle for a 16-yard gain.
Soon, Grossman was 5 for 5 against one of the best defenses in the NFL, moving with the team without a hitch until the drive finally stalled at the Pittsburgh 10.
Hoping to gain an early edge over an injured John Beck, Grossman completed 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown Friday night in the Redskins' 16-7 win over the Steelers in the preseason opener for both teams.
"Anytime you start the season backed up on the 1-yard line and get it all the way down to the 10, that's a good start," Grossman said. "We got into a rhythm and pretty much played consistent throughout the first half."
While the proceedings were more or less ho-hum August routine for a stable Steelers team coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the ever-changing Redskins put more stock than usual in the first preseason game. Washington coach Mike Shanahan had his starters play the entire first half — hardly the norm for the opener — as he sought to gauge his team's fitness and knowledge of the play book following the NFL lockout.
The result was that the Redskins' starters were facing the Steelers' backups for part of the first quarter and all of the second. The 1s-vs.-2s fought to a draw, with Grossman hitting Moss for an 8-yard score against Pittsburgh's backups and second-unit running back Isaac Redman spinning his way through Washington's starting defense for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 7-7 at halftime.
Still, the Steelers will have plenty to critique after a game in which they were outgained 452-186. There's also an injury to cornerback Ike Taylor, who broke his left thumb and could be out for a couple of weeks.
"That's not the kind of performance we were looking for," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "Quite frankly, we got outplayed in just about all areas: blocking, tackling, running, throwing, kicking. That team was better prepared tonight than us. They showed it. We accept that, and I look forward to this group responding to what we put out there tonight. We've got a lot of ground to cover."
Coming off a third straight last-place finish in the NFC East, the Redskins overhauled the roster in the compressed free agency period and are trying to sort out starters at several key positions. Top of the list is quarterback, although Round 1 of Rex-vs.-Becks suffered from a no-show because Beck tweaked his groin in practice last week and sat out the game.
The opening drive ground to a halt after Grossman had to burn a timeout with the ball at Pittsburgh's 10, but he helped make up for it with an 82-yard drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Moss in the second quarter — albeit against Pittsburgh's second-string defense.
Coach Mike Shanahan praised Grossman but made it clear the competition is just getting started. The coach hopes Beck can play next week against Indianapolis.
"We'll give everybody a chance to see what they can do in practice, see what they can do in games," Shanahan said. "And when it's over, we'll make a decision."
Another Redskins competition might already have a winner. Shayne Graham, hoping to push Graham Gano for the kicking job, shanked a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left on the opening drive and also missed wide right from 49 yards at the end of the first half. Meanwhile, Gano hit from 32, 34 and 45 yards in the second half — with the 45-yarder clanging off the left upright.
Both Shanahan and Graham hinted that Graham might not be around for next week's game.
"I wouldn't wish it on anyone," Graham said. "It's a horrible feeling to have today, especially in front of the home team, the team I'm trying to win a spot on. ... I'm trying to win a job, and it just didn't go down the way I wanted it to."1 comment on this story
Notes: Considering the rushed timetable to prepare for the game, it was actually quite clean. There were no turnovers, just three sacks and five penalties. ... Ben Roethlisberger played one series, completing 2 of 3 passes for 22 yards, and Pittsburgh's other starters were done by the end of the first quarter. ... Washington veteran DT Barry Cofield, when asked when he last played the entire first half of the first preseason game: "When's the last time there was a lockout that lasted until late July? I think it's just extraordinary circumstances." ... Only one of seven kickoffs was returned, a byproduct of the new rule that puts the kickoff at the 35 instead of the 30. ... Tomlin isn't sure whether Taylor will need surgery. Other Steelers injuries: WR Wes Lyons (concussion), DE Sunny Harris (foot), CB Crezdon Butler (quad) and CB Keenan Lewis (calf). ... Shanahan said he thinks TE Chris Cooley will miss two more weeks with a knee that's still sore after offseason surgery. Cooley saw a specialist Wednesday and had an MRI which didn't reveal anything new. "He's had it drained a few times, and that's not good," Shanahan said. ... Redskins QB Matt Gutierrez, who was signed earlier this week, had his name misspelled on his jersey. It was written as "Gutierriz."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP