The Washington Football Team entered Monday night’s game as 6.5-point underdogs against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. That didn’t faze coach Ron Rivera, though, even with his team staring at a 14-point deficit in the first half.
Rivera made adjustments in the second half that propelled Washington to a 23-17 comeback victory over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. With the win, Washington remains tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East. And although the Steelers suffered their first loss of the season, they still hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Washington offense recovers from sluggish start
The Washington Football Team struggled offensively without starting running back Antonio Gibson. The rookie suffered a toe injury in his first carry of Monday night’s contest, which he took for 13 yards before hobbling off the field.
Gibson came into the game as the team’s leading rusher with 645 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. And Washington clearly missed his big-play ability in the early going. Pittsburgh outgained Washington by nearly 100 yards in the first half, limiting Gibson’s team to just three points at the break.
The second half, however, was a much different story.
Washington began the third quarter with a 14-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run from Peyton Barber, who stepped in for Gibson after he was ruled out.
Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked three times in the first half, but the Steelers failed to take him down in the second. With virtually no rushing attack, Washington relied on short passes from Smith to thwart Pittsburgh’s defensive ends. The change in offensive strategy allowed tight end Logan Thomas and running back J.D. McKissic to inflict damage through the air.
Thomas reeled in nine receptions for 98 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17-17. McKissic, meanwhile, racked up 70 yards on a team-high 10 catches.
A pair of 45-yard field goals from kicker Dustin Hopkins late in the fourth quarter ultimately saw Washington steal a victory from Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh already looking to bounce back
After coming up short against the Washington Football Team on Monday, the Steelers will have to respond to a loss for the first time since last December. Nevertheless, there are some positives that coach Mike Tomlin can build on for next week:
- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has gone 22 quarters straight without getting sacked. And that can be attributed to Pittsburgh’s offensive line.
- Outside linebacker T.J. Watt surpassed All-Pro defensive end, Aaron Donald, for the NFL lead in sacks with 12.
- There is no more pressure to go undefeated in the regular season, so players can focus more on the present.
Tomlin mentioned that Monday night’s defeat will be a good learning point for his team, which faces adversity for the first time this season.
Up next for Washington is a road game against the San Francisco 49ers at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, will face off against the Buffalo Bills in primetime at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday.