The Redskins lost their second straight game and their record fell to 3-5. Griffin threw a touchdown pass but completed only 16 of 34 passes for 177 yards. His receivers, by Shanahan’s count, dropped 10 passes.
“It’s not what anyone wants and for us to have won today, we needed a few of those plays to be big plays instead of drops,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “And it didn’t go our way offensively.”
Cooley wasn’t a factor on offense in his return to the team, recording no catches on a day when only one pass was thrown in his direction. The Redskins couldn’t get their running game going either. Rookie tailback Alfred Morris had only 13 carries and ran for 59 yards. The Redskins were limited to 86 rushing yards, snapping a string of 13 straight games with at least 100 rushing yards.
The presence of linebacker London Fletcher on the Redskins’ defense wasn’t enough to stop the Steelers (4-3) from scoring on their first four possessions of the game as they built a 20-6 edge at halftime.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished the day with three touchdown passes and place kicker Shaun Suisham added a pair of field goals. Tailback Jonathan Dwyer had 107 rushing yards, the first 100-yard performance against the Redskins this season.
The frustration boiled over for the Redskins late in the game when cornerback DeAngelo Hall was ejected for an incident with an official with about four minutes left.
Hall was tangled up with Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders at the end of a play and both ended up on the turf. Hall took off his helmet and yelled and pointed at head linesman Dana McKenzie.
“It is disappointing because you work so hard to play, to compete at a high level,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “And any time you come out and lay an egg like we did today, it’s embarrassing and frustrating at the same time.”
Fletcher played in his 232nd straight game, even after he was plagued by a hamstring injury and issues with his balance during a week in which he missed two practices. But even with their defensive mainstay in the lineup, the Redskins had no answers for Roethlisberger in the game’s early stages. He connected on 14 of his first 18 throws.
“Defensively we definitely didn’t play well enough in the first half and they were able to move the ball,” Fletcher said.
On their first four possessions, the Steelers got two touchdown passes by Roethlisberger — to tight ends Leonard Pope and Heath Miller — and two field goals by Suisham.
The Redskins, meanwhile, were having uncharacteristic struggles on offense. Griffin connected on only five of 13 first-half passes. He overthrew open tight end Logan Paulsen deep and even was called for an offensive pass interference penalty when he ran a pass pattern on a trick play that went bad. The Redskins’ receivers had glaring drops.
“We had some opportunities and had the potential for a number of big plays,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to make those plays against this type of defense.”
The Redskins’ lone offensive bright spot of the first half came on their second drive. Shanahan left Griffin and the offense on the field on fourth and goal from the Pittsburgh 2-yard line. Griffin made the move pay off with a touchdown pass to wideout Santana Moss. But kicker Kai Forbath’s extra point was blocked.
That was it for the Redskins’ offense until Forbath’s 48-yard field goal drew them to within 20-9 early in the third quarter. The Steelers responded with Roethlisberger’s one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Will Johnson and nearly had more, but Antonio Brown’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown was nullified by an illegal block.
Forbath’s 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter cut the Steelers’ lead to 27-12, but the Redskins got no closer.