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Week 16

Five Turnovers Lead to Playoff Elimination

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 17, 2000; Page D01

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 16 –– The Washington Redskins mustered little resistance today as their faint hopes for making the playoffs officially came to an end. They were eliminated from postseason contention and did nothing to spoil Pittsburgh's party as the Steelers closed Three Rivers Stadium in style with a 24-3 triumph over the Redskins before 58,183.

The Steelers (8-7) kept their slim AFC playoff hopes alive on a rainy, emotional day when they bid farewell to the dank old building that housed some of the league's greatest players, teams and memories.

Jeff George is flattened and leaves the game with an acute back strain with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. With the loss, the Redskins dropped to 7-8 and officially were eliminated from the playoffs. (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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The Redskins (7-8), who began their season with Super Bowl aspirations, will end it next Sunday at FedEx Field just hoping to reach .500 by beating the Arizona Cardinals. These high-priced Redskins already have carved a niche as one of the most disappointing pro football teams in recent memory.

"It's been a ridiculous season, and it's been a sad one," Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "It's unfortunate, really unfortunate."

The Redskins have lost six of their last seven games and are 0-2 under interim coach Terry Robiskie. They lost quarterback Jeff George to an acutely strained back today and cornerback Deion Sanders sprained a knee. The status of both will be reevaluated early next week, club officials said.

Robiskie's players, for the second straight game, did little to help their interim coach's chances of securing the job on a permanent basis next season by giving another lethargic, sloppy performance. Still, Robiskie told his players in the locker room afterward he did not believe they had given up, and he repeated that statement later.

"I think a lot of guys in that locker room fought their hearts out," Robiskie said, adding: "Every day you sit and look at [the results], and you're shocked. It's tough. It's very, very shocking."

The Steelers believed the Redskins would surrender today if pressed, Robiskie said, noting that the Redskins' coaches learned of that last week by talking to coaches on the Steelers' staff.

"Their motto for the week was, 'Punch 'em [the Redskins] in the mouth and they'll quit and go home,' " Robiskie said. "They might have hit us in the mouth. But I don't think our guys quit and went home. . . . When I look at the films, I'll see breakdowns in a lot of areas. But as I sit here today, I don't think guys quit."

Added Robiskie: "To stand up and say I'm going to die because I lost two, I'm not going to do that. I know it's tough to win a game in the NFL."

It was ugly for the Redskins, though, and their gaffes were similar to those they made in last Sunday's 32-13 loss at Dallas in Robiskie's head coaching debut. They committed five turnovers today, including two interceptions thrown by George--one on a ball that was stolen from the hands of wide receiver Albert Connell by Steelers cornerback Chad Scott.

Tailback Stephen Davis fumbled at the Pittsburgh 16-yard line on the Redskins' first offensive play of the second half, when they trailed by 14. Pro Bowl tight end Stephen Alexander fumbled at the Pittsburgh 2 midway through the fourth quarter, and quarterback Brad Johnson had the wet ball squirt from his hands as he began his throwing motion for another fumble on the Redskins' final possession.

Johnson took over for George after George's body was twisted badly on a sack and he walked gingerly off the field with just more than 10 minutes to play. George was hit from behind by Steelers linebacker Joey Porter and was bent over backward after falling into Pittsburgh linebacker Jason Gildon.

The Redskins permitted a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Steelers' Hank Poteat in the second quarter. Pittsburgh amassed 190 rushing yards, 104 by bullish running back Jerome Bettis. Reserve running back Richard Huntley provided touchdown runs of three yards just before halftime and 30 yards in the fourth quarter. It was just what the Steelers expected with so many of the greats from their past on hand.

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