Dropped passes, missed tackles, blown opportunities contribute to defeat

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't just the dropped passes, though they were plentiful. And it wasn't just the missed tackles. Or the lack of execution. Or the lack of a consistent pass rush (again). Or the inability to make plays in the secondary (again).

It wasn't any one thing in particular. Rather, it was all of it combined. And when the Redskins, still trying to elbow their way into contender status, play like that against a team that has long resided in that neighborhood, then the result is predictable: a 27-12 Pittsburgh Steelers win in rainy weather.

For a team trying for a long time to take that so-called next step, this was not the sort of game the Redskins needed to play. Not after a heartbreaking loss a week ago in New York. Not in Year 3 of the Mike Shanahan regime. The Redskins now are 3-5 and -- defensively at least -- headed in the wrong direction. Questions can be raised about everything from talent to scheme to coaching. The bottom line: What they're doing isn't working.

Offensively the Redskins saw that when they can't rely on deception they struggle. However, had they held on to more passes, perhaps they could have produced more yards (a season-low 255) and points.

"When we look back at this game, we'll be sick about the opportunities we left on the field," Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said.

Or as running back Alfred Morris said, "We dropped balls. We didn't find many holes. All-around tough game."

That about sums it up. Even when the Redskins did something right, it turned out badly. Santana Moss caught a 2-yard touchdown pass to cut the Steelers' lead to 10-6. It stayed that way because Kai Forbath's kick was low and easily blocked. Thus ended the competitive portion of the game. The Redskins like to say they were still in it in the fourth quarter, and technically that is true: They were down 15 and had a fourth-and-17 at the Pittsburgh 24-yard line that they failed to convert.

But that was a mere formality. The game was lost long before that point. The Redskins' offense, built on deception, wasn't productive -- though the drops obviously hurt.

"Usually we're leading or it's a tight game so we can do what we want," Morris said. "I don't think we had the opportunity to open the offense and have them be indecisive."

And then it got uglier when cornerback DeAngelo Hall was ejected with 3:48 left. Hall went hard at receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who then took Hall and flung him by the pads to the ground as they got tangled up. After they bounced up, Hall yelled at the head linesman, shouting expletives. He received two penalties and was ejected.

"I'm not going to discuss that play," Hall said afterward. "I have my agent calling [commissioner Roger Goodell], trying to set something up. ... Me and him will talk about it, watch the film and figure out what went down and hopefully get to the bottom of this."

It's the third time this season the Redskins have received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of a game. It's the first time anyone was ejected.

"I'm very disappointed," Shanahan said. "We talk all the time about keeping your composure. You never put your team in that type of situation."