PITTSBURGH, Nov. 28 -- Washington Redskins reserve tailback Ladell Betts had been prepared to get more carries late in the season since starter Clinton Portis was on a pace to break the NFL record for carries. But Betts had no inclination Sunday that he would suddenly become Washington's featured back.
As the Redskins emphasized passing, Betts found himself in the game -- and Portis on the sideline -- for several key drives. Betts finished with eight carries for 34 yards. His 26-yard run was Washington's longest since Portis's 64-yard touchdown in the season opener. Sunday, Portis had six carries for 17 yards. Was Betts surprised at getting more carries than Portis?
Running back Clinton Portis sat out most of the day, carrying the ball just six times for 17 yards: "I'm not upset about the carries. I'm upset we didn't win."
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
"Yes and no," he said. "No, because they always tell me to prepare and get ready to go in, especially with Clinton having as many carries as he does already this season. I prepare and I get a lot of reps in practice so if they call my number, I'm ready."
Coach Joe Gibbs played down the playing time and indicated that Betts was used more because of Washington's passing approach. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey said he didn't pay much attention to the switch, in part because Portis suffered a minor pinched nerve.
"During the game, you don't really evaluate who's in the game or not," Ramsey said. "You just go out there. If Ladell is in there as the back, you go with it. I didn't know if he [Portis] was hurt. I didn't know if he was banged up. I didn't know what the situation was."
Wilson, Boschetti Impress
Rookie right tackle Mark Wilson was solid in his NFL debut. He took the spot of Ray Brown, who switched to right guard to replace the injured Randy Thomas (hamstring). Wilson gave up a sack to linebacker Clark Haggans. "I was a little bit nervous but just enough to help me play," Wilson said. "Once I was out there, I felt okay. I didn't play as well as I would have liked to."
Also making his NFL debut was Ryan Boschetti, an undrafted rookie released three times by the Redskins this season. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle from UCLA helped bolster an undermanned defensive line.
Boschetti was promoted from the practice squad Friday after the Redskins released place kicker Ola Kimrin, who had filled in for injured John Hall.
Boschetti played at defensive tackle and defensive end and finished with four tackles (three solo). "I thought he brought a lot of energy and it was great to see that," defensive tackle Joe Salave'a said. "As you can see in our situation, we're limited in bodies.". . .
Hall made his return after missing five games with a groin strain, but he didn't get much of an opportunity to kick. Hall kicked an extra point with 3 minutes 23 seconds left in the third quarter after Chris Cooley's two-yard touchdown reception. Other than that, Hall had two kickoffs. . . .
Washington's punt coverage team was victimized by Antwaan Randle El, who returned six punts for 111 yards, including a long of 60.
"I think the guy is phenomenal," Gibbs said. "We knew it coming in. We put real effort into it. It wasn't something we didn't expect. The guy is terrific. We got it on film. We tried to sell our guys on it.
"We just weren't good enough to get him down. He's a heck of a football player. He did put us in the hole."
On Pittsburgh's second offensive play, linebacker Marcus Washington sacked Ben Roethlisberger for a seven-yard loss. Washington, a free agent who had played last season for the Indianapolis Colts, strongly considered playing for the Steelers before signing with the Redskins.
At the start of free agency, on March 3, the Steelers were the first team that Washington visited. But after the Redskins brought him to Redskins Park the next day, he signed a six-year, $24 million deal, which included a $7 million bonus (more than what Pittsburgh offered).
"I wanted to take my visit [with the Redskins] before I made my decision because those were my top two choices," he said. "I considered them. I'm the type of person, I like to weigh my options. I try to see both sides and make a good decision.
"I came here and really liked how they were going to use me."
Washington added: "Then the money wasn't bad either. I ain't the smartest man. But I ain't stupid, either."
Gibbs Affirms Commitment
Gibbs yesterday dismissed an ESPN report speculating that he might step down after the season because of health issues. "My health is superb," he said, laughing.
When Gibbs was asked if he was considering departing, he responded: "No, it's not something I think about. I made a commitment to come here. I feel bad for [owner Dan Snyder], our fans and everybody, our players. We're all fighting our guts out to get something going. I don't know where that came from."
No Serious Injuries
The Redskins didn't suffer any serious injuries for one of the few times this season. Those hurt were wide receiver Laveranues Coles (hip), defensive end Demetric Evans and offensive lineman Jim Molinaro (stinger), who played on special teams. The players on Washington's inactive list were linebacker LaVar Arrington, wideout Antonio Brown, defensive end Phillip Daniels, defensive tackle Jermaine Haley, offensive lineman Vaughn Parker, defensive end Ron Warner and Thomas.