By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers scored early and often against the hapless Washington Redskins defense, and Robert Griffin III became the 14th rookie quarterback to lose to a Dick LeBeau-coached defense, 27-12, Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
Only one rookie quarterback has beaten the Steelers with LeBeau as the defensive coordinator, and Redskins signal-caller RG3 couldn’t overcome the experienced unit and nine dropped passes by his teammates.
The Steelers won the opening toss and immediately went on offense, which paid off with 12-play, 76-yard drive in 7:05. Roethlisberger was sharp, going 7-for-8 for 65 yards and a one-yard touchdown toss to No. 3 tight end Leonard Pope. The scoring pass came on fourth down.
Roethlisberger hit tight end Heath Miller in the flat, after a pump fake on a bubble screen, and it went for 25 yards. He also connected with Mike Wallace three times for 22 yards and Emmanuel Sanders for 15 on third-and-seven.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer, starting for still-injured players Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, keyed the next possession with a 34-yard run. The drive was thwarted on the next play, however, when Sanders was dropped seven yards behind the line on a pass-run option. Shaun Suisham saved the series with a 48-yard field goal into the closed end zone.
The Redskins rallied with a touchdown on their second possession, as quarterback Robert Griffin III led a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 6:16. RG3 hit a big one on the second play with a 31-yard toss to tight end Logan Paulsen and came through with two straight completions on third-down plays. The two-yard scoring toss to Santana Moss was on fourth down. The extra point was blocked.
That didn’t slow down the Steelers, however, who scored on their third possession as well. Roethlisberger was sharp again with a 14-yarder to Sanders, lasers for 14 and 18 yards to Antonio Brown, 10 yards to Wallace and a seven-yard bullet to Miller on third down for the touchdown.
Suisham added a 27-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in the first half, and the Steelers took a 20-6 lead into the locker room at the intermission. Roethlisberger hooked up with Sanders for 27 yards, following a pitiful 12-yard punt by the Redskins, and Dwyer ran for 13 to the 15-yard line. The next two plays netted three yards, and Suisham had to kick the field goal.
RG3 was plagued by at least five drops in the first half, but that didn’t stop him from chucking the ball in the second half as well. He opened with a 37-yard toss to a wide-open tight end Niles Paul, but the drive stalled and Kai Forbath had to boom a 48-yard field goal into the open end zone. Forbath added a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but two more dropped passes — including one in the end zone — kept the Redskins from scoring touchdowns.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark suffered a concussion during the drive, and he did not return. His status for next week’s game against the New York Giants is questionable as well. With Will Clark likely starting for Troy Polamalu again next week, Ryan Mundy would have to replace Clark.
That slight setback didn’t stop the Steelers’ offense, as Roethlisberger directed an 11-play, 80-yard drive in 6:39. Dwyer had first-down runs for 12 and 10 yards, and rookie Chris Rainey burst around right end for 19 to the 2-yard line after taking a direct snap. Fullback Will Johnson caught two passes in the drive, one for seven yards and another for one yard and a touchdown to cap the drive.
Notes: Dwyer finished with 107 yards on 17 carries, the third time he has surpassed 100 yards in just 13 NFL games and first Steelers player since Willie Parker to surpass 100 yards in two straight games. … The attendance was 62,371.