Byron Leftwich rescued the team after Ben Roethlisberger played his worst first-half of the season and left the game when he injured his sore right shoulder. Leftwich stepped right in and produced a touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter and converted several big third downs on the other touchdown drive. Roethlisberger was just 5 of 17 for 50 yards at the half.
Willie Parker returned after missing the past four games with a sprained knee and didn't have any problems, making several good cuts and showing some burst. He got all the carries in the first half, gaining 45 yards on 10 carries, and finished with 70 yards on 21 carries. Mewelde Moore had three big catches for 45 yards on both scoring drives in the second half.
Santonio Holmes dropped three passes in the first half, including a deep throw at the goal line, but he atoned with a nice 5-yard touchdown catch. Hines Ward made two big plays to set up the first touchdown and drawing a 43-yard pass interference penalty to set up a field goal. Nate Washington's 50-yard catch was the fourth of 48 yards or longer in four games.
The Redskins had just 10 sacks in the first eight games, but, as is becoming the norm for the Steelers, Roethlisberger was sacked three times in the first half. But the line did a good job creating some room for Parker and keeping the pressure off Leftwich in the second half. The Redskins, though, finished with five sacks, half their season total.
The Steelers finally surrendered a run longer than 20 yards when Clinton Portis had a 22-yard run in the first quarter. Still, the NFls' leading rusher had only 48 yards on 12 carries, ending his streak of five 100-yard games. Nick Eason and Aaron Smith had two of the seven sacks against Jason Campbell, who did not convert a third down until late third quarter.
The defense was able to get good pressure on Jason Campbell, sacking him four times in the first half. James Harrison had 1 1/2 sacks in the first half and continually beat LT Chris Samuels off the edge. LaMarr Woodley had two sacks and kept collapsing the pocket on Campbell. James Farrior also had a sack and a big pass breakup on fourth-and-goal.
CB Ike Taylor shadowed WR Santana Moss, the second game in a row he has been given such an assignment, and held their big-play receiver to two catches for 14 yards, Taylor also had a pair of big pass breakups in the first half. CB Deshea Townsend had the team's first interception in five games when he picked off a tipped pass at the Redskins 23 in the third quarter.
Linebacker Andre Frazier made the biggest play, blocking a punt near the end of the first half that led to the first touchdown and changed the momentum of the game. P Mitch Berger looked like he had a pair of bad hamstrings when he had punts of 27, 32 and 35 yards in the first half. Jeff Reed surprisingly missed an extra point, his first since the 2003 season.
The Steelers wanted to get off to a fast start, which might explain the failed onside kick on the opening kickoff. It was one of the few gambles that didn't work for the Steelers. Still, in a season in which injuries have become a dominant theme, the Steelers managed to pull away in the second half without Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller.
Game Eight vs. Redskins: W 23-6Position
Note: Note: Steelers' cumulative grade point average through Week 9 is graded on a 4.0 scale.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at email@example.com .