What Went Wrong for RG3 and the Washington Redskins' Offense in Pittsburgh?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 28:  Larry Foote #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers sacks Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins during the game on October 28, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the Redskins 27-12.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Statistically, Sunday's performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers was the worst of Robert Griffin III's career. But there were a lot of factors at play. Let's break down just what happened to RG3 as the Washington Redskins were dominated by the Steelers at Heinz Field.


Griffin's receivers let him down

The Redskins had dropped only 12 passes before this game, according to Pro Football Focus, but PFF modestly concluded that the 'Skins had seven drops against the Steelers alone. I say modestly because the majority of outlets and beat reporters have that number at closer to 10. 

Griffin completed only 16 of 34 passes. You can't just simply say that without those drops he'd have been as good as 26-of-34, because he completed passes after drops that he might not have completely otherwise, but it's probably safe to conclude that he would have completed between 60 and 80 percent of his throws, rather than 47 percent. 

Additionally, his yards-per-attempt average would have been more respectable than the unacceptable 5.2 number he posted Sunday. This, for example, would have been a 22-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson: 

And later in the first half, this would have been at least a 12-yard gain to Santana Moss on a big third down. It hit Moss right in the chest. One of three drops for the veteran receiver Sunday.

And I don't even know if you'd call this a drop, because Hankerson wasn't even able to locate a perfectly thrown pass, but it might have been a touchdown. Instead, they'd turn it over on downs on their final opportunity to get back in the game.

Griffin didn't take advantage of the few opportunities he had

The Steelers defended Griffin well. They're a smart, experienced defense, and they deserve credit here. That said, Griffin had some chances that were wasted, and not because of drops. The best came on a first down play midway through the second quarter, when James Harrison was inexplicably covering Logan Paulsen, who was wide open but overthrown by Griffin.

They got too fancy

It's easy to use 20/20 hindsight to criticize their decision to use Josh Morgan at quarterback and Griffin as a receiver on a second-quarter third down, but considering the amount of hits Griffin already takes, I don't see why they thought that would be a good idea against a defense like this one. 

It was a drive-killing play right when Washington needed to score some points to get back in the game. The Steelers would score on the next series to take a 14-point lead. 


The weather wasn't ideal

It's hard to say how big a factor the rain was in Pittsburgh, but it's not as though they were battling through the center of Hurricane Sandy. The Steelers were playing in the same conditions, but PFF  assigned only three dropped passes to Pittsburgh receivers, and Ben Roethlisberger completed 72.7 percent of his passes. 


The Steelers defense gave Griffin few openings as a runner

Griffin took off only six times, and two of those "runs" came when they were just pushing forward to avoid a safety on their goal line in the final seconds of the first half. That indicates that Griffin simply wasn't seeing anything.

The great thing about the Washington offense is that he has the ability to make quick reads and hand off or throw instead. On Sunday, RG3 was smart to take only what they gave him. 

Here's what Griffin saw on his longest run of the day, which went for seven yards. Not a single Pittsburgh defender bit on the play-action fake to Alfred Morris. 

Remarkably, he still found the edge and picked up seven yards. But this is how you want to defend Griffin as a runner. He can only do so much damage when you're on top of him like this.

Two plays later, Griffin tried to roll away from a rusher and scramble but saw this...

He saw that time and again Sunday.


The good news is there aren't many defenses like Pittsburgh's. The bad news is Griffin is mortal, and it isn't as though the Steelers came in playing that well on defense. They didn't have Troy Polamalu, either. 

Additionally, this was an anomaly as far as drops go. It was simply a bad day for several people whom Griffin relies heavily on. We probably shouldn't expect things to go this badly very often as the RG3 era continues, but this is an indication that this 'Skins team can't experience success with Griffin alone.