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Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Rapid Reaction: Steelers 23 Redskins 6


Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Steelers put their AFC pride on the line Monday. Pittsburgh had lost to the Eagles and Giants from the NFC East, and a loss to the Redskins would have invited even more doubters.

But it didn't come to that because the Steelers' defense held the Redskins to two field goals early in the game. The Redskins were dreadful on third down. They were 0 for 9 before finally converting one in the second half. The stretch running play that had been the Redskins' calling card all season wasn't there against the relentless Steelers defense.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell threw his first two interceptions of the season and wasn't particularly efficient at any point in the game. Even when the Redskins finally sustained a long drive midway through the fourth quarter, they stalled inside the Steelers' 10-yard line.

Coach Jim Zorn has been praised for his motivational ploys and imaginative offense this season, but the play he called on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter was a head-scratcher. Campbell rolled right and tried to throw it to defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander, who had reported as an eligible tackle. Linebacker James Farrior made a nice play on the ball, but you still have to wonder why they didn't try to smash it in with Clinton Portis from the 1-yard line.

The Redskins have mixed the West Coast offense with a smashmouth running game for much of the season, but they were all finesse against the Steelers. Portis had his streak of five games with 120 yards or more interrupted.

The Steelers made the Redskins one-dimensional in the fourth quarter and linebacker Lawrence Timmons ended any hope of a rally by sacking Campbell for a big loss with just under four minutes left.

With two minutes left, the only fans left at FedEx Field were wearing black and gold. The Redskins defense feasted on Ben Roethlisberger in the first half, but he wasn't able to return for the second half because of a right shoulder injury.

It didn't matter, though, because backup Byron Leftwich was rock solid. He stepped away from pressure and completed a 50-yard pass to Nate Washington to set up the Steelers' second touchdown. After going up 16-6, the Steelers defense caused a three-and-out and then Campbell's first interception of the season. It was Campbell's first interception in 271 attempts, a franchise record.

Campbell never looked comfortable in the pocket. When he dropped his arm down to try to find different passing angles, the Steelers did an excellent job of knocking the ball down. The Redskins head into their bye at 6-3, a record they most certainly would've embraced at the beginning of the season. But while the loss was disappointing, Zorn will quickly try to put it in perspective for his players. The loss makes the Dallas game in two weeks even more important.

Zorn was still working the officials after the final gun sounded, but the Redskins have only themselves to blame for this loss. Campbell was sacked five times and he rushed throws on the few occasions when he had time in the pocket. Zorn always talks to his team about now "flinching."

That will be a tough assignment after this effort. The Steelers pushed the Redskins around in the second half. And for one night, they struck a blow for the AFC.