By: Rajveer Ashat (RajveerAshat//Twitter, Raj__Ashat//Instagram)
The Steelers’ undefeated streak has come to an end, falling to the Washington Football Team 23-17 at Heinz Field. The game started with great defense from both teams, with the first quarter ending 0-0. The Steelers were able to come away with a touchdown with 10:47 left in the second following a 14-play, 72-yard drive led by Ben Roethlisberger, capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson. This was followed by more great defensive efforts from both teams, with the Steelers stopping a 4th and 1 chance by Washington. The Football Team’s defense then responded with a commanding goal-line stand after a seven-play series by the Steelers inside the 5-yard line. The Steelers forced Washington to punt after a three-and-out on their next possession, and RayRay McCloud (or McDonald?), ran back the punt for a 17-yard return, starting the Steelers’ drive at the 50-yard line. James Washington caught a short pass in the flat and broke tackle efforts from Kendall Fuller and Deshazor Everett, taking the ball in for another Steelers’ touchdown, giving Pittsburgh a 14-0 lead with 3:54 left in the first half. Poor tackling efforts from the Steelers defense and incredibly confusing calls by the officials allowed Washington to attempt a 49-yard field goal and cut the Steelers’ lead to 13, with a score of 14-3 going into halftime.
Coming into the second half, Washington was able to close the gap and score their first touchdown of the game. A 14-play, 82-yard drive was ended by a 1-yard Peyton Barber touchdown run. Washington converted 2 3rd down plays during the drive, a 31-yard catch and run to Cam Sims, and a 9-yard pass to Steven Sims. A long completion to Logan Thomas set Washington at the 1-yard line. The Steelers’ defense was able to hold them until 4th and goal, but a defensive holding call on TJ Watt gave Washington a fresh set of downs, which they were able to convert on. An ugly drive by the Steelers followed, including dropped passes, bad run blocking, and a botched snap, which forced the Steelers to bring Jordan Berry out once again to punt it away. Another good effort by the Steelers’ defense got the ball back to their offense, however, they disappointed yet again, a common theme in this game. Dropped passes and penalties forced them to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Matthew Wright, the replacement for Chris Boswell, who was inactive on Monday due to a hip injury. Soon after, the Washington offense started to show their strengths, when they tied the game at 17-17 with 9:09 remaining in the 4th after a 53-yard drive ending in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Logan Thomas. The Steelers lost cornerback Joe Haden during the possession. Lacking key pieces such as Steven Nelson and Robert Spillane, the defense was looking like a shadow of their former self. A 45-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins with 2:04 left in the 4th in the ensuing drive gave Washington their first lead of the game, a drive that was energized by a huge one-handed catch from Cam Sims to convert a 3rd-and-4. The Steelers’ drive was a brief one, with Ben Roethlisberger’s first pass attempt being batted into the air by Montez Sweat and intercepted by Jon Bostic. This set up another Dustin Hopkins field goal in the last seconds to seal the Washington win with a final score of 23-17.
Steelers’ Pros and Cons:
- Mike Hilton: Oh man. Have. A. Game. Mike Hilton. He was flying all over the field, operating just like an additional linebacker. He proved that he came into this game ready to play, shooting aggressive gaps during run plays, and dropping into coverage seamlessly. He truly played a great game in which the Steelers’ normally stellar defense was not up to par.
- Ben Roethlisberger: Ben had a strong game throwing accurate, quick passes. His arm has looked good this year, but him throwing the ball 40+ times in 5 consecutive games is somewhat concerning.
- TJ Watt: Another shining star in today’s otherwise depressing defense. Apart from an unfortunate holding penalty at the goal line which led to a Washington score, he played a STELLAR game. DPOY 2021
- James Washington: Although he hasn’t been given many opportunities this year, being overshadowed by Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, he’s shown he can consistently make plays when he’s given the ball. There’s no way around it. Also, he seems like the only one that can catch.
- Specials Teams: Once again, an awful game from the Steelers’ special teams’ unit. Marcus Allen running into the punter and RayRay McCloud having no confidence were two huge takeaways from this game to highlight that this unit that has been struggling, which has been overlooked recently.
- Announcers: RayRay McDonald and JD Hosseneauer. These guys stunk up the whole broadcast.
- Run Blocking: Pathetic, that’s the only word I can fathomably use to describe the Steelers’ run blocking this week. Left to right, the whole line struggled the whole game. One moment, in particular, was in the second quarter, when the Steelers couldn’t capitalize from literally the one-inch line. Like I said before, absolutely pathetic.
- Justin Layne: Not much to say except for missed tackles. His coverage looked decent with the absences of Haden and Nelson, but his piss-poor tackling is what got him on the cons list this week.
- Drops: Again, what can I say? Grown men being paid to catch footballs, dropping footballs being placed perfectly by Ben Roethlisberger. This was the second week in a row in which it seemed like the Steelers receivers were dropping at least one pass per drive.
- JC Hassenauer: Another “everyone but the center” false start call today, as well as a crucial botched snap and consistently bad blocking from Hassenauer, were the lowlights of this week’s line performance. We desperately Maurkice Pouncey back.
- Randy Fichtner: Randy Fichtner has now further solidified his case to be fired from his position. Despite his terrible and predictive play-calling week after week, he seems to squeak by the axe. There’s nothing else to say but #FireRandyFichtner.