Published November 20, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, like just about everyone else, is impressed with Robert Griffin III's precocious talent.
Still, if the irrepressible Washington Redskins' rookie is the future, Roethlisberger very much remains the present.
And a bright one at that.
Roethlisberger easily outdueled Griffin on Sunday, tossing three touchdowns in a remarkably efficient 27-12 win that lifted the Steelers back over .500 (4-3) and right into the thick of things in a muddled AFC.
"It's fun having so many weapons and playing as a whole team," said Roethlisberger, who passed for 222 yards and spread his 24 completions to nine different receivers.
Heath Miller, Leonard Pope and Will Johnson — hardly big-play threats — all caught scoring tosses. Jonathan Dwyer churned for 107 yards in his second NFL start and Pittsburgh's defense never let Griffin get comfortable.
Griffin completed just 16 of 34 passes for 177 yards and a score while managing 8 yards rushing, finding little room to showcase his brilliance against a unit used to having its way when a youngster is calling plays in the other huddle.
"It is very frustrating," Griffin said. "You want to go out, be successful, execute plays and have everything work for you and then when you have a day like today when you have almost nothing work for you."
Griffin got little help from his receivers. The Redskins (3-5) dropped 10 passes and the Steelers kept the NFL's top rushing team under wraps despite playing without injured safety Troy Polamalu.
Washington ran for a season-low 86 yards while Griffin's longest run came on a 7-yard sprint in the first quarter.
"He wasn't running all over the place," Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote said. "The front seven got challenged by (Steelers coach) Mike (Tomlin) all week and they delivered."
Something the Steelers didn't do over the season's first month, when they lost three road games — two on the final play — and heard the usual rumblings about being old, slow and over.
Funny how quietly those concerns become after holding one of the NFL's most explosive offenses in check.
"This is our story and we're writing it," Foote said.
Something Griffin is trying to do in the nation's capital. The second overall pick in last April's draft has taken the league by storm, his dazzling playmaking turning the moribund Redskins into one of the league's more compelling teams.
It all came to a crashing halt on a wet, raw day at Heinz Field.
Washington did its best to create space for Griffin, at one point sending him out as a wide receiver. He sprinted down the sideline but was flagged for pass interference while trying to grab Josh Morgan's wobbly pass, another mistake by the Redskins on an afternoon full of them
"I guess it was just a bad day for us," Washington wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said. "We didn't make those plays."
Even a pregame surprise from veteran linebacker London Fletcher didn't help. Fletcher overcame head and hamstring issues to play in his 232nd consecutive game, the longest active streak in the NFL. His presence, however, did little to buoy Washington's floundering defense against the balanced Steelers.
Roethlisberger continued to thrive in new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's system, while Dwyer, starting in place of injured Rashard Mendenhall, became the first Steelers running back to top 100 yards in consecutive games in four years.
Dwyer insists he's only holding Mendenhall's spot until the veteran returns, though he's certainly made a convincing argument that he deserves more playing time.
"I knew if I stayed patient, my opportunity would come," Dwyer said.
While Dwyer seized his moment, the Redskins squandered it. For all of Griffin's eye-popping numbers, the team needs to do some serious work in the second half of the season to be considered a serious playoff contender.
They might have to do it without their best cornerback, at least for a bit. DeAngelo Hall was ejected in the fourth quarter after getting in the face of an official, needing to be held back by teammates in an animated display that is sure get some attention at the league office.
Hall declined to talk about his tantrum and the Redskins are only too eager to move on.
"We lost the game, that's all that matters," Griffin said. "You're judged by wins and losses. I feel as bad as anyone else in that locker room right now."
NOTES: Washington TE Chris Cooley, re-signed by the team last week after Fred Davis was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, played sporadically. He did not catch a pass but was targeted once by Griffin ... The Steelers improved to 400-253-2 since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the most by any NFL franchise during that span ... Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark left in the third quarter with a concussion and did not return.