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Redskins vs. Steelers: Washington's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 8

Joe VersageCorrespondent IIOctober 9, 2016

Redskins vs. Steelers: Washington's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 8

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    The Washington Redskins were humbled 27-12 Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, as the AFC North's Steelers defeated them in all phases of the contest. 

    At Heinz Field, Pittsburgh successfully took away Washington's ground attack, which in turn, hurt the Redskins passing game. 

    So much of what the Redskins do well on offense is predicated on play-action tosses by Robert Griffin III. But Pittsburgh defense stymied that strategy by limiting Washington to just 86 yards rushing.

    Griffin mustered just eight yards on six attempts and was held under 10 yards rushing for the second time this season. In Week 5, RGIII gained seven yards on one carry, before leaving the Atlanta game with a concussion.

    Washington's run totals were eye-opening because the Redskins entered the contest ranked first in rushing yards per game with 177.

    Also troubling was a season-high 10 drops by the Skins' pass catchers.

    To view Washington's winners and losers from Sunday's game, please continue reading our featured slideshow. 

Biggest Loser No. 1: DeAngelo Hall

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    On Saturday, I wrote a column about DeAngelo Hall's wise crack last week about Eli Manning's game-winning touchdown pass against Washington's stunned secondary.

    This week, he tops the losers' list with a bone-headed on-the-field antic.

    Hall was ejected late in the ballgame Sunday, when he mouthed off at the game's head linesman. The official rushed over to break up what appeared to be a skirmish between Hall and Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

    DeAngelo proceeded to whip off his helmet, which is unacceptable in the first place. He then pointed at the ref, dished out a slew of obscenities and got tossed.

Biggest Loser No. 2: Washington's Pass Catchers

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    Where do we start?

    It's a pity to begin with the only guy that hauled in a touchdown pass by Robert Griffin III. But, Santana Moss had three of Washington's 10 drops in the game.

    That's 10 all right and it's not a misprint. Six of them came in the first half alone. And to make matters worse, Washington entered the contest with just 11 drops through seven games. 

    During one stretch, the Redskins choked on three consecutive passes in one possession. Evan Royster started it, Josh Morgan joined in and Moss saw the Redskins off the field.

    Leonard Hankerson also needs to have his hands examined. He let a sure touchdown slip through his fingertips on an RGIII roll-out with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. Hankerson was wide open inside the five on the play and headed into the end zone without the ball. 

    Dezmon Briscoe had butter fingers as well, with a touchdown drop of his own on the first play of the second quarter. In defense of Briscoe, he was covered quite well by Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis. But, he still should have caught Griffin's pass, which was right on the money.  

    Meanwhile, Redskins second-string running back Evan Royster better get his act together. He came into the game with just 39 yards rushing and 49 receiving. He also appears to be playing with a lack of passion.

    In addition to mishandling a screen pass Sunday, Royster misread a blitz and almost got RGIII killed. The second-year back clearly needs to work on his blocking techniques because he got blown over by Steelers linebacker Larry Foote.

    Lunging and cutting at an 11-year veteran like Foote is not going to get the job done.   

Biggest Loser No. 3: The Redskins' Pass Rush

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    Washington's pass rush was non-existent and cost the Redskins a touchdown late in the second quarter, when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had all day to throw a 7-yard scoring strike to tight end Heath Miller.

    The touchdown capped a 10-play, 74-yard drive that took 5:16 to complete.

    Unfortunately, the Redskins could only send their four-man front at Big Ben, because they wanted to limit Pittsburgh's receivers on the outside. That strategy didn't seem to faze Roethlisberger, who was sacked once, while completing an array of outside passes. 

    Redskins fans can feel OK about one thing. RGIII was sacked just once as well, for a loss of eight yards. 

    Mike Wallace led the Steelers with seven catches for 62 yards, while Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders chipped in seven more for 94 yards.

    Washington's defense couldn't contain Pittsburgh's running game either, as Jonathan Dwyer rumbled for 107 yards in his second NFL start. In Week 7, Dwyer totaled 122 yards in Cincinnati. According to CBSSports.com, that makes him the first Pittsburgh back since Willie Parker to post back-to-back 100- yard games. The last time that happened was 2008 (68 games ago). 

Biggest Loser No. 4: Reed Doughty

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    Redskins safety Reed Doughty looked lost in coverage all afternoon. He also missed a critical open-field tackle on Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer, who broke Doughty's arm tackle for a 34-yard gain in the first quarter. 

    With eight and-a-half minutes left in the third stanza, Doughty allowed Steelers tight end Heath Miller to run free for a 12-yard catch and run. Miller was also left unattended by the Redskins defense on a couple of other catches. 

    Doughty also plays special teams, but he didn't excel in that dimension either. In fact, he actually lucked out when Pittsburgh's punt return for a touchdown was called back, due to a block in the back penalty. Reed guessed wrong on which way Antonio Brown was going to start out the return and got blocked to the outside, as Brown burst past him on the inside. 

    A dishonorable mention should go out to safety Madieu Williams, who contributed to the Redskins' tackling woes. Williams failed to hold onto Dwyer early in the third quarter, which resulted in a 10-yard run by the Steelers' third-stringer. Dwyer started in place of injured running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.

Biggest Loser No. 5: Kyle Shanahan

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    Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan didn't have much luck tricking a disciplined Steelers defense, but he should be disciplined by his father for putting Robert Griffin III in harm's way.

    I can't find anything good to say about Joshua Morgan's long pass down the left sideline to Griffin, which fell incomplete. RGIII took an unnecessary shot on the play and was fortunate not to get laid out.

    Shanahan's call may have been clever, but it was way too risky for a quarterback who suffered a concussion just three weeks ago. 

    Pittsburgh also shut down Washington's stretch-zone rushing attack, with strong penetration from its defensive line. Especially impressive was the Steelers savvy group of linebackers. Throughout the game, they gang tackled Redskins' rookie wunderkind Alfred Morris at every turn.

    Pittsburgh dominated time of possession in the contest (33:13 to 26:47), but the first-half stat in that category hurt the most. Through two quarters, the Steelers held the ball for 18:25, compared to Washington's 11:35.

    Another play call from Kyle deserves scrutiny as well.

    On Washington's opening drive, the Redskins were deep in Steelers' territory when Shanahan chose a play with multiple shifts that led to a false start by tight end Logan Paulsen.

    When opposing offenses play in Pittsburgh, they tend to limit motion and shifting in the closed (and noisier) end of Heinz Field. They also use quick snap counts.

    Fortunately for the Redskins, RGIII threaded the middle of Pittsburgh's defense for a touchdown to Santana Moss on a 4th-and-goal. But, that wasn't enough to keep Kyle out of our Losers' Bracket.  

Biggest Winner No. 1: London Fletcher

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    London Fletcher suffered a pulled hamstring last week against the New York Giants. He also had some issues with his balance and was subjected to six hours of neurology tests on Thursday. But, all of that couldn't keep a good man down.

    Fletcher got his balance back, passed his tests and shook off the hamstring to start his 232nd consecutive game. Incredibly, he has never missed an NFL contest in his career, dating back to his rookie season in 1998. That feat currently serves as the league's longest active streak. 

    Fletcher also proved how valuable he is to the Redskins defense. Playing at less than 100 percent, he tied for the team lead in tackles with five and added an assist. Fletcher also blew up Steelers rookie running back Chris Rainey on a bubble screen with two minutes to go in the third quarter. 

Biggest Winner No. 2: Robert Griffin III

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    Robert Griffin III didn't have his best game, but he hung in there on the road against Pittsburgh's vaunted defense. Griffin finished 16-of-34 for 177 yards and a touchdown, but he did not throw a single pick.

    One Griffin pass intended for Aldrick Robinson was right on the mark, but Robinson couldn't bring it in. Replays showed Aldrick's arm being pulled by Pittsburgh corner Keenan Lewis, but there was no penalty called by the officials.   

    Griffin also showed how talented he is with his feet, when he avoided a sack in the fourth quarter. He simply squirmed away from his would-be tackler to heave a pass into the flat. Of course, Darrel Young dropped it. It was Washington's ninth drop of the afternoon.

Biggest Winner No. 3: Logan Paulsen

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    Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen was hand picked by head coach Mike Shanahan to start the game in place of Fred Davis, who is out for the remainder of the season with a left Achilles tear

    Fan-favorite Chris Cooley agreed to rejoin the Skins late in the week, but dropped the only pass thrown to him.

    Meanwhile, Logan played admirably, with a respectable four catches for 46 yards. He averaged 11.5 yards a catch.  

    Early in the game, Paulsen ran a nice route to get behind Pittsburgh's linebackers and safeties on a 32-yard reception. RGIII deserved credit on the play as well, with a perfect pass off a play-action, double-fake.

    Logan did get called for a pair of false starts. One came on a 1st-and-goal play from the 3-yard line in the second quarter. 

    Paulsen was then penalized a second time, with the Redskins driving late in the game. But he made up for it on the next play with a key catch on 2nd-and-9.

Biggest Winner No. 4: Alfred Morris

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    Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris gave a valiant effort against the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense. Morris fought hard to gain 59 yards on 13 carries. That's 4.5 yards a carry and he had a long gain of 13. 

    Morris seemed to run into difficulty when he attempted to get out on the edges of Pittsburgh's defense. But, Alfred imposed his will on the Steelers on a couple of one-cut plays.

    Pittsburgh is no slouch against NFL rushers. The Steelers entered the game ranked fourth in rush defense and second in total yards allowed per game (277). With Sunday's tilt in the books, Pittsburgh has yielded just four 100-yard rushers in the past 22 games.  

Final Thoughts

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    Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote told Fox Sports sideline reporter Laura Okmin that he "views rookie quarterbacks like dinner."

    According to Okmin, Foote said that "the first thing he does when the schedule comes out is circle the rookie QBs he'll be facing." But his excitement ended, as soon as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin put in a highlight reel of RGIII.

    Nevertheless, few quarterbacks come into Pittsburgh and dictate what they're going to do. And on Sunday, the Steelers treated RGIII the same way they do Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. They made him think, with various defensive looks and blitz packages.

    Foote made his presence felt early, with a vicious solo tackle of Redskins running back Alfred Morris on the rookie's first carry. 

    Washington's offense also continued to have trouble capitalizing on third-down conversions. The Redskins entered the game converting on just 31 percent of their third-down attempts, which ranks them 29th among 32 teams. Against the Steelers, the unit fared even worse, with just three conversions on 12 third-down attempts. 

    Pittsburgh was without seven-time Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu, who is still nursing a calf injury. It was the third straight game that Polamalu has missed, which led NFL Network's Michael Lombardi to question if age is becoming a factor for the star safety. 

    The Steelers' offense entered the weekend ranked sixth in the NFL in passing yards per game (282), while Washington came in dead last in pass defense, with 328 yards allowed per game.

    And finally, the numbers "15 and one" seem to have special meaning for the Steelers. According to the Fox broadcast team, Ben Roethlisberger improved to 15-1 in his career at home versus NFC opponents. His only loss came against the New York Giants back on October 26, 2008.

    Since 2004, Pittsburgh defensive coordinating genius Dick Lebeau is 15-1 against rookie signal-callers. And as a team, the Steelers have a 15-1 record against rookie quarterbacks in general.  

    To hear what Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan thought about his team's play, please click here. Washington's postgame video press coverage is courtesy of Redskins.com.

     

    Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics in this article are courtesy of CBSSports.com. Additional game information was obtained via Fox Sports' live television broadcast.

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