LANDOVER, Md. -- It's a good thing the NFL has not yet cut the preseason schedule in half as commissioner Roger Goodell wants because the Steelers, particularly their offense, are nowhere near ready to start the season.
It's not just that they are 0-2 after their two exhibition games, it's how they've accomplished it. They came apart in more ways than one Monday night in a 24-13 loss against the Washington Redskins.
First, they lost rookie halfback Le'Veon Bell to a right mid-foot sprain in the first series after he made his first NFL appearance and four carries for 9 yards. He will have an MRI today.
This came after halfbacks LaRod Stephens-Howling (strained knee) and Isaac Redman did not dress. Later, they lost fullback Will Johnson to a rib injury and halfback Baron Batch to a stinger.
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None of those injuries might be serious, but their problems on offense sure look to be, starting with their line. Every starting lineman had at least one penalty except guard Ramon Foster, and those weren't their moments. The first line allowed their quarterbacks to get pummeled through the first half.
"We need to get better in a hurry," coach Mike Tomlin said.
One highlight for the Steelers on offense: Jonathan Dwyer, one of only three healthy backs left when the night ended, ran 14 times for 68 yards, although he, too, lost a fumble.
"I thought he did some nice things," Tomlin said. "Obviously, putting the ball on the ground didn't help him or us."
The Redskins led, 17-6, at halftime, which was mostly played by the first teams, but the reality for the Steelers was much worse. With their quarterbacks under heavy pressure the entire half, the Steelers pulled together only two field-goal drives, one aided by penalties, the other directed by backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Shaun Suisham made both kicks from 28 and 30 yards.
As poorly as they played in the preseason opener at home against the New York Giants, losing 18-13, the Steelers played more dreadfully in the first half with most of their first teams on the field.
Tomlin cited penalties as the main culprit and said he will have some NFL officials at practice this week to help his players better understand what they're doing to cause them. The Steelers committed eight penalties for 95 yards in losses.
They converted only 1 of 13 third downs.
"We actually converted a couple third-downs in the game that were negated by penalty," Tomlin noted.
They did not reach the end zone until the first play of the fourth quarter after rookie quarterback Landry Jones deftly led them on a 76-yard drive. He hit Derek Moye with a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down after rookie Markus Wheaton caught a 45-yard pass to set up that score.
That highlight was brought to you via their second and third teams. The first teams provided few of them.
Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan backed off and leaped high to intercept Ben Roethlisberger's short flat pass and ran it 22 yards for a touchdown for a quick, 7-0 lead for the Redskins, and it went downhill for the Steelers from there. Kerrigan later picked on Gradkowski, swooping in and knocking the ball out of his hands for a strip-sack, the ball recovered by the Redskins.
It was one of three first-half turnovers by the Steelers.
Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, playing the entire half and into the third quarter except for the first series, returned the favor by bursting into Washington's backfield and forcing a fumble on a handoff that was recovered by Ike Taylor.
Three plays later, Dwyer, who had an otherwise strong first half running the ball, lost it on a fumble in Redskins territory.
It was that kind of night through the first two quarters for the Steelers, and those were the only ones that counted. Roethlisberger left early in the second quarter after completing 5 of 6 passes for 66 yards and that pick-six interception.
"We just didn't execute," Roethlisberger explained simply at halftime.
Their offense did not commit all the errors. Taylor ran into Washington receiver Aldrick Robinson on a deep pass that resulted in a 30-yard interference penalty to give the Redskins a first down at the 5 in the second quarter.
Washington scored two plays later when Leonard Hankerson made a one-handed catch of Rex Grossman's pass in the back of the end zone over William Gay for a 10-yard score to give the Redskins a 14-3 lead.
Gradkowski led the Steelers on the next series, directing a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Suisham's second field goal. Emmanuel Sanders caught two passes for 39 yards on the drive.
Washington consumed 58 yards in the final 56 seconds against the Steelers' second defense, and Kai Forbath kicked a 38-yard field goal to put the first half out of the Steelers' misery.
Suisham, a former Redskins kicker booed by the home crowd, also kicked a 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter after a penalty-fueled Steelers drive with Roethlisberger at quarterback. Suisham was among the few Steelers with a perfect night.
The Steelers offense was most dreadful in the first quarter when Roethlisberger was under constant pressure.
That pressure delivered in a big way on two consecutive plays.
First, Kedric Golston sacked him for a 6-yard loss. On the next play, Roethlisberger tried to throw a pass to Dwyer in the right flat from his 28 on their second offensive series.
Kerrigan backed up, snapped it up and took it 22 yards for a score.
The only thing better about the other two full offensive drives in the first quarter was the fact the Redskins did not score on either of them.
Washington's scrubs put the game away when Roy Helu Jr. ran through the Steelers JVs for a 30-yard touchdown with 3:21 to go.Steelers - breaking