Steelers Lose Another LB to Injury, Suffer First Defeat

Robert Spillane Mike Hilton

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Logan Thomas of the Washington Football Team attempts to gain yardage against Robert Spillane and Mike Hilton of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 07, 2020.

On Monday evening the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) lost their first game of the 2020 season, a 23-17 defeat at the hands of the Washington Football Team (5-7). It was Pittsburgh’s first home loss to Washington since a 41-14 drubbing on November 17, 1991. With the loss, the Steelers are now tied with the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) for the best record in the AFC, and just two games ahead of the Cleveland Browns (9-3) in the AFC North.

Steelers Injuries vs. Washington

The Steelers suffered several injuries during the game, losing starting cornerback Joe Haden to a concussion and inside linebacker Robert Spillane to an apparent knee injury that is “being evaluated,” according to head coach Mike Tomlin.

If Spillane’s injury is significant, that would be a real cause for concern, as Devin Bush is out for the season with a torn ACL and Ulysees Gilbert III remains on injured reserve with a back issue. It could also make the decision to trade for Avery Williamson look like an especially thoughtful move. (Williamson came on to record nine total tackles—six solo—including one tackle for loss.)

Dropped Passes, Lack of a Running Game Costly

Injuries aside, the Steelers were plagued by dropped passes for the second week in a row. According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, the Steelers had seven drops, “their most in 15 seasons and most in the NFL this season.”

In his postgame press conference, Tomlin said: “We’ve got to make routine plays routinely … we’re not making them routinely enough right now.”

Moreover, the team’s running game seems to be getting worse every week. Running backs Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels combined to rush the ball 13 times for 21 yards.

To be sure, the Steelers could really use the services of No. 1 running back James Conner and starting center Maurkice Pouncey, both of whom remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. But even when Conner and Pouncey return, it looks as if the Steelers will go only as far as Ben Roethlisberger and his pass catchers take them.

Roethlisberger finished the game 33 of 53 for 305 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. Eight different receivers caught passes, with Diontae Johnson leading the way with eight catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Third-year wide receiver James Washington had the biggest play of the evening—a 50-yard touchdown reception—one of his two catches for 80 yards.

Matthew Wright Perfect in His NFL Debut

Meanwhile, placekicker Matthew Wright made his regular-season debut and converted all of the kicks he was asked to attempt. That is, he was two of two on extra points and also converted a 37-yard field goal.

Steelers Tie NFL Sack Record

Last but not least: Before Robert Spillane left the game with his knee injury he sacked Washington quarterback Alex Smith, allowing the Steelers to tie the NFL record for most consecutive games (69) with at least one sack. The Steelers can break the record next Sunday by recording at least one sack at Buffalo (9-3).

T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt also had one sack each during the game, extending the team’s league-leading total to 44.

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