The Steelers built a 14-0 first-half lead but ultimately dropped their first game of the season, 23-17, to the Washington Football Team at Heinz Field on Monday night.
Both offenses struggled to move the football early on, but Pittsburgh mounted a 14-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to receiver Diontae Johnson to make it 7-0 with 10:33 left in the second quarter.
The offense got the football back in premium field position moments later after Washington went for it on fourth and one from its own 34 and cornerback Mike Hilton stopped running back J.D. McKissic for a three-yard loss.
The Steelers quickly took advantage and ultimately had a first and goal from the one thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The offense was stymied on three-straight tries and decided to go for it on fourth and one. Unfortunately, second-year running back Benny Snell Jr. was stuffed while trying to dive over the top.
The Steelers defense forced a quick three and out, and on the very first play of Pittsburgh’s next offensive possession, Roethlisberger found receiver James Washington for a 50-yard touchdown catch and run to make it 14-0.
The Steelers continued to dominate the rest of the second quarter, but the Washington Football Team found some life on the last play of the first half on a controversial 49-yard field goal by kicker Dustin Hopkins. Just prior to the play, Washington quarterback Alex smith was sacked by Stephon Tuitt. Smith took the football with him as he headed for the sideline, making it a scramble for his team to get the designated kicking football onto the field. With Washington out of time outs and the seconds running off the clock, the officials stopped play to allow Washington time to get things in order.
Washington built on that momentum by taking the second-half kickoff and marching 82 yards on a 14-play drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown plunge by running back Peyton Barber to pull the visitors to within four points.
The Steelers extended their lead to 17-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Matthew Wright, filling in for an injured Chris Boswell, connected on a 37-yard field goal.
After the two teams exchanged punts, the Washington Football Team tied the score at 17 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Smith to tight end Logan Thomas with 9:09 remaining in the game.
The Steelers offense, a unit that had struggled for most of the game, mounted what looked to be a decisive scoring drive, but after things stalled at the Washington 28, Pittsburgh faced a fourth and one with 4:53 remaining. However, rather than trot Wright out to attempt a 45-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin elected to go for it; it was to no avail, as Roethlisberger’s pass down the sideline intended for rookie running back Anthony McFarland fell incomplete.
Washington mounted a decisive drive of its own and took its first lead of the game when Hopkins connected from 45 yards out with 2:04 remaining.
Did the Steelers offense, one that had helped to carry the team to an 11-0 start, have anything left for a comeback? The answer was a quick no; Roethlisberger’s very first pass was tipped and intercepted by former Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic.
Washington added one more field goal to pad its lead and send the Steelers home losers for the first time in 2020.
Roethlisberger completed 33 of 53 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on the day, while the running game was again non-existent, tallying just 21 yards on 14 carries.
Next up for the Steelers, they travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills on Sunday Night Football.