- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If the Washington Redskins‘ defensive backs are on their way to becoming an elite unit, these are the kinds of games that will turn out differently.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with limiting one of the AFC’s best offenses to 179 yards on 27 pass attempts. But the way the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Redskins through the air in a 23-6 win on Monday night was just grating enough to give Washington’s defensive backs some things to think about headed into the team’s bye week.

Whether it was Ben Roethlisberger in the first half or backup quarterback Byron Leftwich in the second after Roethlisberger reinjured his right shoulder, the Steelers sustained a sometimes-erratic offense mostly with crucial completions against a Redskins secondary that hadn’t given up many of them.

“We just let them off the hook,” Rogers said. “The first half, we played a lot better. The pressure was getting to them. [We were] breaking up passes. The second half, they went back and got some back outs, completed a couple passes, got us on our heels. There’s a lot to learn from that game.”

The Redskins’ only saving grace in the first half was that Roethlisberger was so inaccurate. He hit just five of his 17 passes, getting sacked three times and blitzed often enough that plenty of his throws were hurried. But even then, the Steelers did some damage through the air.

The Steelers’ first scoring drive was set up by a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Rogers. When Pittsburgh began the drive at its own 21, Roethlisberger went right after the cornerback, who was in single coverage with Hines Ward. Roethlisberger underthrew a deep out to the left sideline, but Ward adjusted in time to come back for the ball.

Rogers had lost track of the play and grabbed Ward just as he made a leaping attempt for the ball. The penalty put Pittsburgh at the Washington 36, the Steelers kept their drive alive by beating an eight-man rush with a shallow crossing route to Ward, and Jeff Reed’s 34-yard field goal got Pittsburgh within three.

But Rogers’ ignominious night was only getting started.

On the Steelers’ next possession, he jumped in front of a sideline throw to Santonio Holmes, only to drop what would have been a sure interception return for a touchdown.

“Those are catches I’ve got to make to get to the next level, where I want to be,” Rogers said. “It’s not just shutting these receivers down, breaking up passes. Catches like that, those are game-changers.”

Then, when the Redskins had a chance to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal after a blocked punt gave Pittsburgh the ball at the Washington 13, Roethlisberger completed a second-and-21 pass to Holmes for 9 yards, then found Ward (again working on Rogers) for 14 yards down to the Washington 1.

Former Jacksonville starter Leftwich relieved Roethlisberger in the second half, showing early the Steelers weren’t afraid to test Washington with their backup quarterback. On his first pass, Leftwich avoided Rocky McIntosh and drilled a 50-yard pass to Nate Washington, who had beaten Fred Smoot down the left sideline. It led to the Steelers’ second touchdown.

“That play took a long time to develop. He just threw it up there,” Smoot said. “I couldn’t get the ball out. Nate Washington just made a strong catch on that one. I give all the credit to him.”

And Pittsburgh put the game away early in the fourth quarter with a 77-yard drive almost completely built by challenging Rogers with a diet of back-shoulder routes, fades and outside routes, anything designed to take advantage of the sizable cushion the Redskins had the fourth-year corner giving receivers.

First came a third-and-15 throw to Holmes. Three plays later, it was a 13-yard screen to Mewelde Moore in the right flat, which had been vacated by Rogers.

And though the Steelers scored on a play that wasn’t necessarily Rogers’ fault, he was the only one who could have stopped it.

He lined up on Holmes on a second-and-goal from the Washington 5 early in the fourth quarter. Rogers played well off Holmes, trying to take away an inside route. But Leftwich fired a quick screen to Holmes, who raced into the end zone before Rogers could get to the corner in time to stop him.

“I have to get inside. He had [5] yards outside of me,” Rogers said. “That coverage, you can’t stop every route. You can’t stop the out and the slant. There’s a weakness in every coverage.”

It was a rare hiccup for Rogers, who was otherwise putting together a strong season, and the Redskins’ defense as a whole. If the team has designs on furthering its playoff ambitions in the second half of the season, however, its defensive backs know the key plays have to go their way.

“You could point out any little thing that went wrong,” Rogers said. “It was a combination of a lot of things. They did things to find our weaknesses. They just got the best of us, really.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide