- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

It’s just preseason, so the Washington Redskins’ 17-10 victory over Pittsburgh on Friday night doesn’t really count. Nonetheless, the Redskins were properly encouraged after giving their best performance this summer in the preseason game in which NFL starters traditionally play the most and against a Steelers team that was 16-2 last year and 2-0 this August.

“It’s still preseason, but we needed a good lift,” said coach Joe Gibbs, whose Redskins had played poorly in a scrimmage at Baltimore and the preseason opener at Carolina and so-so last week against Cincinnati. None of those teams made the playoffs in 2004.

“We’re very happy,” offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. “I thought we matched up pretty well. We really game-planned. We really treated it like a regular-season game. We were working on winning.”

The Steelers didn’t have that same sense of urgency, and it showed. Though the game was tied 10-10 when the starters departed at halftime, Pittsburgh’s touchdown had come on a turnover. The Redskins had many more yards (234-130) and first downs (13-5) and more yards per play (6.2 to 5.4). Maligned quarterback Patrick Ramsey posted an 81.2 passer rating, despite throwing an interception for a score, while highly touted counterpart Ben Roethlisberger had an ugly 23.5 rating.

“It was a good night for us,” Gibbs said. “There are a lot of good things we can point towards.”

Such as:

• Running back Clinton Portis, who had just one carry against the Panthers and sat out against the Bengals with an ailing elbow, gained 48 yards on just eight carries. “Clinton looked crisp and sharp,” Gibbs said.

• After being torched by Willie Parker for a 51-yard run that gave the Steelers a first down on the 20, the starting defense not only held them to a field goal but allowed just one first down and 27 yards over the next three series.

“We didn’t play up to our level at Carolina,” tackle Cornelius Griffin said. “We played better against Cincinnati. [On Friday,] we played the way we’re capable of playing except for that one long run. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

• New No.1 receiver Santana Moss, who had caught just three passes for 29 yards the first two weeks, was more of a factor. Moss picked up 24 yards after one catch on an intermediate route. Though Ramsey keeps underthrowing him, the former New York Jet made an excellent adjustment to turn the second misfire into a 28-yard gain.

“As long as you give opportunities to guys, they’re going to come back and make plays,” Moss said.

• Tom Tupa, last year’s NFC punting champion, missed a second straight game with a strained back, but Andy Groom showed again that he might be a capable replacement. Groom, who has yet to make an NFL roster, posted a 35.3 net average on seven punts, four of which he placed inside the Pittsburgh 20. Those are Tupa-esque numbers. Groom also has been fine holding for John Hall’s kicks.

“Hopefully, Tom will be able to bounce back quickly, but you’re always worried when it’s a back,” said Gibbs, who hinted that the 39-year-old Tupa could be cut if he’s not healthy before the final cuts Sept.4. “I’m glad that Andy stepped in and punted well.”

• Ramsey stepped up, not back, after Troy Polamalu’s disastrous pickoff with 3:48 left in the first quarter, completing 10 of 15 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown the rest of the half.

“When something bad happens … it’s important to see how he bounces back from that,” Gibbs said. “Patrick bounced back.”

• Linebacker LaVar Arrington, angry and ailing this spring, played with fire and showed some speed in his first action since December. He had three tackles and pressured Roethlisberger once in showing he’ll soon be ready to regain his starting job.

“I was tired at first, but I had so much support from my teammates,” said Arrington, who made it through his return from knee surgery fine, as did defensive tackle Brandon Noble. “I fed off of that, and I fed off the fans screaming. I felt myself getting stronger.”

Just like his team.

Notes — Safety Matt Bowen, who suffered a badly bruised chest while trying to tackle burly back Jerome Bettis in the first quarter, remained hospitalized for a second straight night but is expected to be released today. … Running back Ladell Betts bruised a calf while being tackled by Steelers safety Chris Hope. Gibbs will turn the play into the NFL as a potential violation of the new ban on “horsecollar” tackles.

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