Rookie running back Alfred Morris entered the game seeking his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Instead he was held to 59 yards on 13 carries by the Steelers, whose defense ranks fourth in the NFL against the run.
Meanwhile, Griffin’s watered-down collection of pass-catchers experienced little success against a defense that entered the game first in the league against the pass.
But the lack of execution in the passing game wasn’t entirely a result of Pittsburgh’s fierce defense. The Redskins had eight uncontested drops and two more forced drops. The Redskins’ receivers, tight ends and running backs combined for just 16 receptions for 177 yards on 35 targets.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a game like this, relative to that many opportunities that you didn’t take advantage of when guys were open. I was disappointed,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I don’t care where the placement is. As long as it hits your hands, you better catch it or else you won’t be in the National Football League for very long.”
Late in the first quarter, receiver Leonard Hankerson blew a chance for a touchdown. He had his man beat on a crossing pattern, and a pass from Griffin hit him perfectly at the 3-yard line. But the second-year pro let the ball bounce off his hands and land in the grass.
“Not making any excuses. We didn’t play our best game,” said Hankerson, who had one catch on four targets. “Us receivers, pretty much the whole team, we put the ball on the ground the whole time, and we didn’t make any of the plays we normally make.”
Later in the game, Dezmon Briscoe ran a slant into the end zone and Griffin hit him in stride, but cornerback Keenan Lewis stripped him of the ball to prevent the score. Late in the second quarter, Evan Royster, Josh Morgan and Moss dropped passes on consecutive plays to force a three-and-out.
The Redskins’ butterfingers did not improve in the second half. A steady rain fell throughout the game, but it didn’t appear to affect the Steelers, who had 24 catches on 33 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
Morgan said that weather was a factor, however,
“Just a bad-weather game. Wet ball, wet gloves. It makes your job 10 times harder,” said Morgan, who caught five of the eight passes that went his way for 46 yards. “But as a pro, you’re expected to make every catch and every throw. I’m not worried about the drops. I know we all have good hands. I know all these fans, everybody out here are expecting us to make every play. But you can’t make every play. Robert’s not going to make every throw. Alfred’s not going to break every run for 100 yards. We’re all human out there and make mistakes, and we just have to overcome it.”