Big Ben, Steelers outplay Redskins
A perplexed Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins headed into the eye of a hurricane back home, courtesy of Sandy. It probably felt much like the one they encountered in Pittsburgh, courtesy of Dick LeBeau.
Griffin, the NFL's youngest superstar, looked a bit weather-beaten after spending a gloomy Sunday in Heinz Field dodging the raindrops and a good-old-days Steelers defense that was as relentless as a Nor'easter during Pittsburgh's 27-12 win.
Rookie quarterbacks are 1-14 against LeBeau-coached Steelers defenses, and not even Griffin — who came in among the NFL leaders in passing and rushing — could figure out how to escape the ever-changing pressure and never-let-go containment.
“It was very frustrating,” Griffin said.
As Griffin's head-on-a-swivel pass receivers dropped wet ball after wet ball — 10 drops by coach Mike Shanahan's count — Ben Roethlisberger dinked and dunked the Redskins' league-worst passing defense by throwing three touchdown passes, not one to a wide receiver.
Subtract Griffin and the “Madden NFL 13”-like numbers he has been piling up this season, throw in a 107-yard game by Jonathan Dwyer, and it added up to the Steelers' second consecutive win, one that inched them to within a game of idle Baltimore (5-2) in the AFC North.
Their season seemingly in jeopardy only a week ago when they won at Cincinnati to avoid going 2-4, the Steelers (4-3) suddenly have the look of a team on the rise heading into Sunday's game at the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants.
“It was nice to get a definitive win,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “It feels like the way we've gotten wins here in the past.”
This was like nothing in his recent past to RGIII, who managed all of 3 yards rushing until late in the game. He ended with 8 yards on six carries, or 219 fewer than he had in his previous two games.
“We wanted to make sure he didn't get outside the defense,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “Our job is to make sure the runners stay inside and let the other 10 guys come in and make the play.”
Roethlisberger was spreading the ball among nine receivers in going 24 of 33 for 222 yards — he wasn't sacked, either — and Griffin was 16 of 34 passing for 177 yards, getting sacked once and hit a half-dozen times.
Not that he got much help from his receivers, who seemed to sense the Steelers' presence whenever they got near a pass.
“If a guy's trying to catch the ball and turning his head around to see who's there, and guys are flying around and hitting people, you're going to have that,” linebacker James Harrison said of the drops.
The Steelers' offense, much like it was in Cincinnati, was steady and efficient while mounting three touchdown drives of 74 yards or longer. It started with a game-opening series that featured Roethlisberger's 25-yard completion to Heath Miller and ended with his 1-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Pope, who caught only his second pass all season.
The only time the Redskins made a push came when Griffin hit Santana Moss on a 2-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 10-6 early in the second quarter. Ziggy Hood blocked Kai Forbath's extra point.
Roethlisberger immediately answered with a 74-yard drive finished off by his 7-yard scoring pass to Miller — the 37th touchdown catch of his career, tying Elbie Nickel's team record for a tight end.
“The sky is the limit for this offense when we're on and getting after guys. That's more of our identity,” left guard Willie Colon said. “We've got Superman at quarterback, we know that. We just have to do our job, and everything is going to go.”
Griffin? He looked nothing like a superhero. Then again, LeBeau defenses have a way of doing that to the newest and the best.
“You don't take anything away from a Steelers defense,” Griffin said.
On the most exasperating day of his short career, Griffin certainly didn't.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.