Published November 20, 2014
His team lost by two touchdowns and his precocious rookie quarterback had the worst statistical game of his young career.
Still, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan came away after Washington's 27-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers "encouraged" and "excited."
The way Shanahan saw it, any chance Robert Griffin III had at success on a soggy Sunday at Heinz Field slipped through his receiver's fingertips.
Time and time again.
The Redskins dropped 10 passes, effectively ruining the stat line for Griffin on a day he finished 16 for 34 for 177 yards and a touchdown.
"You can't have that many drops that we had and keep drives going," Shanahan said. "I don't care where the (ball) placement is, as long as it hits your hand, you better catch it or else you won't be in the National Football League for very long."
Tough words from the veteran coach for his receivers. But Shanahan had only praise for Griffin, who posted a season low in passing yardage and was held to just 8 yards rushing.
"I'm very encouraged," Shanahan said of the Redskins being 3-5 halfway through the season. "I'm very excited. When you get a guy, as a quarterback, that can do what he's done in the first half of the season where he's one of the top passers and top rushers offensively ..."
Playing in 1934 throwback uniforms that made certain players resemble hulking bumblebees, Pittsburgh improved to 14-1 against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, doing to Griffin what they've done to the likes of Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.
"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."
Ben Roethlisberger torched Washington's depleted defense, throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers (4-3) won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Jonathan Dwyer added 107 yards rushing in his second NFL start. Pittsburgh jumped on Washington early, scoring on its first four possessions and never letting Griffin get loose.
Washington ran for a season-low 86 yards, while Griffin's longest run came on a seven-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."
Heath Miller caught four passes for 46 yards and his sixth touchdown of the season for the Steelers, who suddenly look like their normal selves in a wide-open AFC.
Pittsburgh marched into Washington territory during seven of its nine drives.
"We have the talent and the ability to play with anybody and to come out and just get your butt flat-out whooped, as a professional and somebody who's a competitor, that always (stinks)," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.
"You work so hard to play and compete at a high level and any time you come out and lay an egg like we did today, it's embarrassing and frustrating."
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.
Washington's offense wasn't much better. During only two drives did it earn more than two first downs.
Of course, many possessions were stalled by dropped passes that came from players all over the field — wide receivers, tight ends, even running backs coming out of the backfield.
"That (stinks) as a receiver out there with a wet ball and wet gloves," Josh Morgan said, "but you know what, you've got to make the plays."
It wasn't just the Washington passing game hemmed in by a Steelers defense that ranks second in the NFL.
Pittsburgh held the league's top rushing offense to a season-low 86 yards, including only 59 on 13 carries from rookie Alfred Morris, who came into the game the NFC's leading rusher.
"We got behind on the scoreboard, so we couldn't really run it and we couldn't open our playbook up like we normally do," Morris said.
Pittsburgh wasted little time putting the pressure on. Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 76 yards on 12 plays to start the game, the final play a 1-yard touchdown pass to little-used tight end Leonard Pope.
The Steelers made it 10-0 on a 48-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, but the Redskins got back in it briefly when Griffin connected with Santana Moss for a 2-yard score on fourth-and-goal. The extra point was blocked, however.
Pittsburgh went in front 17-6 when Roethlisberger ad-libbed in the pocket and found Miller in the back of the end zone.
"We've got to go back to the drawing board," said Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was ejected in the fourth quarter after getting in the face of an official.
Hall said he requested a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the incident, which drew a pair of 15-yard penalties.
Just another manifestation of what Griffin called one of the most frustrating losses he had ever experienced.
"We've seen other teams change everything to go against this guy, to change the way they play against this guy," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "You see other teams do that and struggle. We didn't want to get too creative. We just wanted to play the way we know how."
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