The Redskins began the second half of their season much like they began the first half.
On national television.
In prime time.
Struggling on offense.
Losing in disappointing fashion.
The Redskins lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-6 on Monday night at FedExField, dropping their record to 6-3 on the season.
Nine weeks ago, the Redskins opened the NFL regular season with a 16-7 loss to the New York Giants in front of a national television audience.
Now the Redskins find themselves 1.5 games behind the NFC East-leading Giants, who are 7-1.
The good news is that the Redskins have a bye next week, so they can heal from a myriad of injuries.
The bad news is that the Redskins go into the break on a down note.
The Redskins' offense struggled against Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense. They logged just 221 total yards and were 3-of-15 on third down conversions.
Jason Campbell completed 24-of-43 passes for 206 yards, but he was sacked seven times and intercepted twice. Clinton Portis, the NFL's leading rusher, had 13 rushes for 51 yards.
"A good team beat us," head coach Jim Zorn said. "We're a good team, too, but we did not sustain any rhythm."
Defensively, the Redskins kept the game close as the offense struggled to find its way.
They sacked Steelers quarterbacks five times, including 2.5 by Demetric Evans, and Cornelius Griffin logged an interception.
The Steelers opened the game with a surprise onsides kick, but it didn't surprise Alfred Fincher, who beat kicker Jeff Reed to recover the ball.
The Redskins had great field position at Pittsburgh's 36-yard line.
The offense picked up nine yards on three plays. Zorn considered going for the first down, but he decided to send in Shaun Suisham for a field goal attempt.
Suisham connected on a 44-yard field goal to give the Redskins an early 3-0 lead.
On the Steelers' first possession, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lofted a pass that bounded off the helmet of one of his offensive linemen. The ball popped up in the air and Griffin made a diving grab for an interception.
Once again, the Redskins had great field position, starting at Pittsburgh's 30-yard line.
But Campbell's third-down pass to Antwaan Randle El was off target, so it was another 3-and-out. Zorn had to send in Suisham again.
Suisham's 43-yard field goal was good to give Washington a 6-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Defenses were dominant early on.
Roethlisberger, who completed 1-of-8 passes for nine yards in the first quarter, was sacked by Evans to stop a Steelers drive.
Later, Campbell was sacked by linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison to end a Redskins drive.
Midway through the second quarter, the Steelers took advantage of a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Carlos Rogers to move into Redskins territory.
Roethlisberger's deep pass to wide receiver Hines Ward was short, and Rogers inadvertently bumped Ward as he turned to catch the ball.
The Redskins' defense stiffened, as Evans sacked Roethlisberger to stop the Steelers on a 3rd-and-2 at the 16-yard line.
Reed came on to connect on a 35-yard field goal, cutting the Redskins' lead in half.
Late in the first half, the Redskins were stymied again as Chris Cooley was stopped inches short of a first down on a third down play.
On Ryan Plackemeier's punt, the pocket collapsed quickly and linebacker Andre Frazier got a hand on the kick. The ball bounced backwards and cornerback William Gay scooped it up for the recovery at the Redskins' 13-yard line.
This time, it was the Steelers who started with great field position.
After a holding penalty pushed the Steelers back, Roethlisberger completed a pass to Ward to the Redskins' 1-yard line.
Roethlisberger, who is 6-5 and 245 pounds, dove behind left guard and pushed into the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
Pittsburgh opened the second half with Byron Leftwich at quarterback. Roethlisberger had suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter and would not return to the game.
Leftwich, a Washington, D.C., native, threw deep to wide receiver Nate Washington, who hauled in the pass in front of Fred Smoot for a 50-yard gain.
Three plays later, the Steelers were at the Redskins' 1-yard again. This time, running back Willie Parker charged behind left guard for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Reed's extra point attempt was wide right, so the Steelers' lead remained at 16-6.
Late in the third quarter, the Redskins' offense finally started to move the ball.
Campbell converted a third-down play--the first of the game for the Redskins--when he threw a 12-yard pass to Cooley.
Later, Campbell threw a perfectly executed screen pass to Portis for 17 yards.
On 1st-and-10 at the Steelers' 30-yard line, Campbell dropped back to pass and was pressured from both sides. He threw in the direction of Portis to the left, but cornerback Deshea Townsend was there for the interception.
It was Campbell's first interception this season and first in 271 pass attempts.
The Steelers grabbed momentum, as Leftwich guided the offense downfield, completing three third-down passes to move the Steelers into scoring range.
At the Redskins' 5-yard line, Leftwich threw a pass in the flat to wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who turned up-field and dove into the end zone ahead of Rogers for a 5-yard touchdown catch.
Pittsburgh increased its lead to 23-6.
On the Redskins' next drive, the offense took advantage of a roughing the passer infraction on Farrior to move the ball into Steelers territory midway through the fourth quarter.
Then Campbell found Cooley for a 14-yard pickup.
At the Steelers' 6-yard line, Campbell scrambled to his left and appeared to dive into the end zone for a touchdown. But replay revealed that he was tackled at the 1-yard line.
So it was 4th-and-1, and the Redskins opted to try for the touchdown instead of the field goal.
Campbell dropped back to pass and rolled right with the ball. Lineman Lorenzo Alexander, an eligible receiver, drifted into the back of the end zone. Campbell's pass to Alexander was broken up, and the drive ended.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Redskins moved deep into Pittsburgh territory again.
But on 4th-and-8 at the Steelers' 12-yard line, Campbell was pulled down by linebacker Lawrence Timmons for a sack.
It was a fitting end for the Redskins.
"The bye is coming at a great time," Zorn said after the game. "We're going to take some time off and relax, and just get away from it. Not that our guys are exhausted from it, but physically we're beat right now.
"When you have an opportunity to take a break, it refreshes you."
The Redskins open the second half of the season at FedExField against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is 8:30 p.m. ET.
FedExField is a natural grass surface. The stadium seats 91,704.
The matchup features teams with the third-best (Washington) and fifth-best (Pittsburgh) records in the NFL.
Washington enters Week 9 on a two-game winning streak and winners of six of their last seven games. They are coming off a 25-17 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Pittsburgh dropped to 5-2 after falling to the New York Giants 21-14 at Heinz Field last Sunday.
Both of the Steelers' losses this season are to NFC East teams. They lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 15-6 in Week 3.
The Redskins are 3-1 at FedExField so far this season and 1-0 against the AFC.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on WDCA 20. Mike Tirico handles the play-by-play with Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser providing color commentary. Michele Tafoya and Suzy Kolber serve as sideline reporter for the broadcast.
On radio, the game will be broadcast locally on ESPN 980. Larry Michael handles the play-by-play with color commentary by Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff. Rick "Doc" Walker serves as sideline reporter.
The game will also be broadcast on Westwood One Radio, with Wayne Larivee doing the play-by-play and Boomer Esiaison adding commentary.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
|WR||89 Santana Moss||86 Hines Ward|
|LT||60 Chris Samuels||77 Marvel Smith|
|LG||66 Pete Kendall||68 Chris Kemoeatu|
|C||61 Casey Rabach||62 Justin Hartwig|
|RG||77 Randy Thomas||72 Darnell Stapleton|
|RT||76 Jon Jansen||74 Willie Colon|
|TE||47 Chris Cooley||83 Heath Miller|
|WR||82 Antwaan Randle El||10 Santonio Holmes|
|QB||17 Jason Campbell||7 B. Roethlisberger|
|FB||45 Mike Sellers||34 Carey Davis|
|RB||26 Clinton Portis||39 Willie Parker|
|DE||99 Andre Carter||91 Aaron Smith|
|DT||96 Cornelius Griffin||98 Casey Hampton|
|DT||64 Kedric Golston||99 Brett Keisel|
|DE/LB||92 Demetric Evans||56 LaMarr Woodley|
|LB||53 Marcus Washington||51 James Farrior|
|LB||59 London Fletcher||50 Larry Foote|
|LB||52 Rocky McIntosh||92 James Harrison|
|LCB||22 Carlos Rogers||24 Ike Taylor|
|RCB||27 Fred Smoot||26 DeShea Townsend|
|SS||48 Chris Horton||43 Troy Polamalu|
|FS||30 LaRon Landry||25 Ryan Clark|
|P||1 Ryan Plackemeier||17 Mitch Berger|
|K||6 Shaun Suisham||3 Jeff Reed|
|H||1 Ryan Plackemeier||17 Mitch Berger|
|LS||67 Ethan Albright||60 Greg Warren|
|KOR||31 Rock Cartwright||21 Mewelde Moore|
|PR||82 A. Randle El||21 Mewelde Moore|
The Redskins and Steelers have met a total of 75 times in the regular season, with Washington holding a 42-30-3 edge in the series.
The last time the two clubs met in the regular season was in November 2004, when the Steelers defeated the Redskins 16-7 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers used three field goals by Jeff Reed, nifty running by Antwaan Randle El on punt returns and a 100-yard effort by Jerome Bettis to secure the win.
In preseason, the two clubs have met 18 times, with the Redskins holding a 12-5-1 lead.
Washington and Pittsburgh last faced off in the preseason in 2007, with the Steelers pulling out a 12-10 victory at FedExField.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|REDSKINS 2008 RANKINGS|
|STEELERS 2008 RANKINGS|
FAMILIAR FACES ON THE STEELERS
Free safety Ryan Clark played for the Redskins from 2004-05 and established himself as a starting caliber defender with the Redskins.
Defensive backs coach Ray Horton began his NFL coaching career as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Redskins in 1994-96.
Running backs coach Kirby Wilson served in the same capacity with the Redskins in 2000.
REDSKINS-STEELERS NEWS & NOTES
-- Randle El's Former Team
Antwaan Randle El, who played for the Steelers from 2002-05, faces off against his former team for the first time in the regular season.
Randle El was a second-round draft choice by the Steelers in 2002. He has plenty of great memories in Pittsburgh.
In four seasons in Pittsburgh, Randle El developed his skills as a wide receiver and was a key component in the Steelers' run to Super Bowl XL in 2005.
Randle El's Steelers beat Seattle that year by a score of 21-10. Jim Zorn was a quarterbacks coach on the team and Shaun Alexander was the Seahawks' running back.
Randle El's most memorable play? On a wide receiver option, he threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward to provide the final points ofn Super Bowl XL. He became the first wide receiver to throw a TD pass in a Super Bowl game.
Randle El, who signed with the Redskins as a free agent two months after Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl, said the '05 Steelers were a confident group, mostly because they knew they could compete with any team in the AFC that year.
"We had played Cincinnati twice already and we knew we could beat them [in the Wild Card round]," he said. "We played Indianapolis and we knew we could stay with them [in the Divisional Playoff round].
"And then there was Denver [in the AFC Championship game]--that was the only team we weren't sure about. But we had a good game plan going against Denver like never before--on offense and on defense. It certainly worked out on the field."
-- Redskins On Monday Night Football
Since the inception of Monday Night Football in 1970, the Redskins are 26-29 all-time playing in the nationally televised Monday contests.
The last time the Redskins played on Monday Night Football was in Week 2 of the 2007 season. The Redskins defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 20-12 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The last time the Redskins played a home game on Monday Night Football was the 2006 regular season opener at FedExField. The Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings by a 19-16 score.
The Redskins and Steelers have played just once before on Monday Night Football. On Nov. 5, 1973, the Steelers won 21-16 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.
-- Steelers' Marks
The Steelers own a 36-22 all-time record on Monday night games. They are 13-17 all-time on the road on Monday night, however.
In Week 4 this season, Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in overtime on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field.
The Steelers have won 13 of their past 17 games against the NFC (including Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks). They had won eight consecutive games against the NFL prior to their 21-14 loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 26.
-- Zorn's First Season As Head Coach
Jim Zorn is 6-2 in his first eight games as head coach. He is aiming to lead the Redskins to their third winning season in the last four years.
Zorn is looking to become the seventh Redskins head coach to record a winning record in his first year at the helm.
The list of first-year head coaches with winning records includes Ray Flaherty (7-5 in 1936), Dutch Bergman (6-3-1 in 1943), Dudley DeGroot (6-3-1 in 1944), Dick Todd (5-4 in 1951), Vince Lombardi (7-5-2 in 1969) and George Allen (9-4-1 in 1971).
Seven first-year head coaches finished their rookie campaign with a .500 mark, while 12 finished with a losing record.
-- Tomlin's Background
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin began his coaching career in 1995 at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. He entered the NFL as a defensive backs coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001.
Tomlin was defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings in 2006 and he coached current Redskin Fred Smoot.
As a player, Tomlin was a three-year starter at William & Mary froom 1990-94 and he finished his career with 100 receptions for 2,046 yards and a school-record 20 TD catches.
Tomlin was born in Hampton, Va. He attended Denbigh High School in Newport News, Va.
-- Balanced Attack
Washington has been equally efficient on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball this season.
The Redskins are ranked seventh in the league on offense and sixth in the league on defense. They are one of four NFL teams to rank in the top 10 in total offense and defense. All four teams are members of the NFC East.
The Redskins and Giants are the only two teams in the NFC to place in the top five in both offense and defense, while the Redskins net yards per game differential of 86.2 is second in the league behind only the Giants.
The Redskins' defense has held its last four opponents to less than 275 total yards of offense.
-- Portis vs. Pittsburgh
The last time Clinton Portis played the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was a long day.
On Nov. 28, 2004, Portis posted six carries for just 17 yards against the Steelers and was visibly upset sitting on the bench midway through the game.
Portis is off to a special season this year. He leads the NFL with 944 rushing yards on 187 carries. His seven rushing TDs are second in the league and first in the NFC.
Portis's 48 first downs on the ground and 52 overall also lead the NFL.
Portis was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October.
-- Leftwich Returns to D.C.
As a youth growing up in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1980s, Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich would often sneak into RFK Stadium with his older brother Kevin to watch their beloved Redskins on game day.
Leftwich went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Jaguars, and has since played for the Falcons and Steelers. He has put his childhood rooting interests behind him, but he keeps plenty of ties to the Washington, D.C., area. He attended H.D. Woodson High School in the city.
Who was his favorite player growing up?
"Whoever played good that week," he said in a 2006 interview. "Sometimes it was Mark Rypien. Sometimes it was Darrell Green. Sometimes it was Earnest Byner. Sometimes it was Doug Williams. It was everybody, man."
-- Redskins Captains
The Redskins have elected six players as captains for the 2008 season. They wear a black "C" on their jersey during games.
On offense, Jason Campbell amd Chris Samuels are the captains.
On defense, Cornelius Griffin and London Fletcher are the captains.
On special teams, Rock Cartwright and Khary Campbell are the captains.
-- FedExField Attendance
FedExField is the largest stadium in the NFL with 91,704 seats. It is more than 11,000 seats ahead of the second biggest stadium, Giants Stadium.
The Redskins set a single-game attendance record--90,910--in the Dec. 30, 2007 game against the Dallas Cowboys.
-- What's Next?
The Redskins have a bye on Nov. 9, and then host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 16. Kickoff is 8:15 p.m. ET.
The Redskins defeated the Cowboys 26-24 in Week 4 at Texas Stadium.