The Redskins dropped to 3-8 on the season with a 16-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers used three field goals by kicker Jeff Reed, nifty running by Antwaan Randle El on several punt returns and a 100-yard effort by bulldozing running back Jerome Bettis to win the game.
The Redskins' defense was able to keep the game close, pressuring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger repeatedly. The defense, ranked second overall in the NFL, limited the Steelers to just 207 total yards and 100 passing yards. Roethlisberger was sacked four times, twice by linebacker Marcus Washington and one each by Lemar Marshall and Chris Clemons.
But the Steelers' defense, ranked first overall in the NFL, was better. The Redskins managed 156 yards of total offense and just 51 rushing yards. Patrick Ramsey was 19-of-34 for 138 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Like Roethlisberger, Ramsey was under seemingly constant pressure, with the Steelers' defense registering five sacks.
"Our football team, I told them I was proud of them," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "I was proud to be with them. They fight each and every week, against two tough opponents two weeks in a row on the road. Our guys competed and fought their guts out. But we weren't able to get it today. Hopefully somewhere in there, there'll be a reward. That's what's in my thoughts."
Of Ramsey, who was making his second start of the season, Gibbs said: "My general feeling was, he competed and he's a tough guy--which is what he's showing. I think it was kind of all of us today."
The Redskins trailed Pittsburgh 13-0 at halftime. Late in the third quarter, the Redskins scored a touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Ramsey to H-back Chris Cooley. It was the Redskins' first touchdown since Week 9 against Cincinnati.
The 13-play, 79-yard drive included a 26-yard run by Ladell Betts and a 17-yard pass from Ramsey to Laveranues Coles that got the Redskins' offense to the Steelers' 4-yard line. One play later, a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Redskins a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
The Steelers' defense rose to the challenge, however, stuffing Betts twice at the goal line and breaking up a Ramsey pass to tight end Brian Kozlowski.
Down 13-0, Gibbs elected to go for the touchdown on fourth down instead of settling for a field goal. Ramsey dropped back to pass and connected with Cooley for the touchdown. Cooley had settled near the middle of the end zone and caught the ball despite two Pittsburgh defenders draped over him.
A few minutes later, the Steelers increased their lead to 16-7 when Reed kicked a 32-yard field goal.
In the first half, the Steelers used a pair of long punt returns by the fleet-footed, shifty Randle El to build a lead.
The game was scoreless until late in the first quarter, but both teams had good field position. On Pittsburgh's second drive of the game, Shawn Springs was called for a 32-yard pass interference penalty as he covered Randle El. The play gave the Steelers the ball at Washington's 24-yard line.
The Redskins' defense stiffened, thanks in part to a pair of young players seeing their first action of the season. First rookie defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti tackled Bettis for a two-yard loss. Then first-year linebacker Chris Clemons, signed by the team last week, sacked Roethlisberger for a 7-yard loss, putting the Steelers out of field goal range.
Late in the first quarter, Randle El had a 60-yard punt return to set up the game's first score. It was the Redskins' Washington, playing on punt coverage, who made the touchdown-saving tackle on Randle El as he sprinted down the left sideline. He was knocked out of bounds at the Redskins' 17-yard line.
The Redskins' defense stiffened again, stopping Bettis twice and forcing an incomplete pass. Pittsburgh had to settle for a field goal; Reed connected on a 33-yarder to give the Steelers an early 3-0 lead.
On the first play of the second quarter, Randle El again caught a punt and weaved his way through the Redskins' special teams, eluding tacklers at almost every turn. It was punter Tom Tupa who knocked him out of bounds, saving a touchdown. The Steelers began their drive at the Redskins' 39-yard line.
Roethlisberger completed a 20-yard pass to Bettis, giving the Steelers a 1st-and-goal at the Redskins' 4-yard line. Bettis did the rest, lumbering into the left corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, Reed added a 36-yard field goal to put the Steelers ahead 13-0 heading into halftime.
It was a lead the Redskins would not be able to overcome.
For the second week in a row, Washington was able to stay close with one of the NFL's elite teams on the road for three quarters. The Redskins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 28-6 a week ago, but it was a close game until the Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter.
"I think you can say we were very competitive and we fought hard [in both games]," Gibbs said. "The games were close into the fourth quarter. So you look at it and say our football team has continued to fight against tough odds. That's the way I look at it. That's what I would take from it. I'm proud of our guys and the way they fight. They fight hard."