Steelers take control early, beat Redskins, 27-12
Steelers' Ziggy Hood celebrates after taking down Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the second quarter Sunday at Heinz Field. Griffin managed only 8 rushing yards on the game.
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Robert Griffin III showed he could do just about anything but prevent a hurricane in Washington. Sunday, the Steelers defense showed he could do something else: Be human.
Griffin made his first appearance at Heinz Field as the NFL's sixth-leading rusher and having completed 70 percent of his passes. Against the Steelers, he completed fewer than 50 percent, ran for just 8 yards and found himself another rookie victim of Dick LeBeau's defense.
The Steelers scored on their first four drives and held off Griffin and the NFL's top rushing attack to win their second consecutive game for the first time this season, 27-12.
"He's a great athlete," defensive end Brett Keisel said of Griffin. Keisel blew up a fourth-quarter Washington pass completion for a 7-yard loss after the Redskins had reached the Steelers 17 in a drive that failed. It ended any thoughts of a comeback.
"We knew he was. We knew in order to be successful we'd have to have guys on him on every snap, keep him in the pocket. I think for the most part, we did a pretty good job."
They did that all across the board. Ben Roethlisberger ran his home record to 15-1 against NFC teams by completing 24 of 33 for 222 yards and three touchdowns -- 7 yards to Heath Miller, his sixth of the season, and 1-yard scoring passes to Leonard Pope and Will Johnson, the first for each.
Jonathan Dwyer ran for 107 yards to become the first Steelers back in four years to top 100 in two consecutive games.
"Any time you can mix it up and be balanced," said Roethlisberger, who completed passes to nine receivers, topped by Mike Wallace's seven receptions. "That's what we've always said we wanted to be, a balanced offense. I feel like we are that right now."
Roethlisberger guided his offense to scores on its first four drives, two touchdowns and two Shaun Suisham field goals. They led 10-0 after the first quarter, 20-6 at halftime and 27-9 in the fourth quarter before the Redskins (3-5) scored another field goal and threatened to make it closer.
That's when Keisel turned a short Griffin pass to tight end Logan Paulsen into a 7-yard loss to the Steelers 24. Two incomplete passes ended that threat and pretty much the ballgame with 4:11 to go.
Griffin completed just 16 of his 34 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown, a 2-yarder to Santana Moss on fourth down in the second quarter. He became the 14th rookie quarterback to lose to the Steelers in the 15 games in which the Steelers have faced rookie starters since LeBeau returned as their defensive coordinator in 2004. Larry Foote had the only sack of Griffin. Neither team had a turnover.
"I thought we did a nice job," coach Mike Tomlin said after finding his team in the black for the first time this season at 4-3. "We weren't perfect. They test you, really."
Griffin's receivers largely failed their tests by dropping, unofficially, seven of his passes. The steady rain that fell throughout might have been a factor, although linebacker James Harrison suggested something else at work.
"Some may be rain, and you can look and see when a guy is trying to catch the ball and moves his head around sometimes just to see who's there. When guys are flying around and hitting people, you're going to have that."
Rookie Alfred Morris, who entered the game with the NFC rushing lead, had a few good runs but was held to 59 yards on 13 carries. The Redskins managed just 86 yards rushing.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley promised a more efficient passing offense, more attention paid to the ground game and more use of tight end Heath Miller, among other things, when he was hired. The running game has come around lately, and the efficiency and Miller have been there all season.
The Steelers three touchdown drives covered 76, 74 and 80 yards. They were the No. 1 team in the NFL in time of possession before Sunday and they did not hurt that stature by having the ball nearly 6 1/2 minutes longer than Washington.
"We look to possess the ball," Tomlin declared. "If we convert third downs, we feel like we've got a chance to do that."
The Steelers actually made only four of 11 third downs, but converted one fourth down into Pope's touchdown, only his second catch since joining the Steelers as a free agent this year. It capped the game's first drive and staked them to a 7-0 lead.
"We have faith that we can get it in," Roethlisberger said of the fourth-down play. "It was a good play call and good execution."
The Steelers third and final touchdown may have traveled just 1 yard also, to fullback Will Johnson, but it, too, came after a big third-down play. They had 3 yards to go with the ball on the 21. Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun with rookie Chris Rainey to his left. The snap went to Rainey, who scooted around right end for a 19-yard pickup to the 2.
Johnson was wide open on the right two plays later in the end zone.
"I was kind of yelling 'turn around, you're open,'" Roethlisberger said of Johnson, the fullback from West Virginia who went undrafted and unwanted by any team as a rookie in 2011 but signed with the Steelers in the spring.
"It's so much fun having so many weapons and playing as a whole team," the quarterback said.
It may not be as much fun next week. The Steelers play the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants on the road.
"It feels good," Foote said of a second consecutive victory. "I wish we could celebrate it but we know we have the world champs a week from now at their place. I'm excited. We'll see what we're made of."
First Published October 29, 2012 12:00 am