PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ unbeaten streak has ended.
Ben Roethlisberger’s pass in the two-minute drill with Pittsburgh trailing by three was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic as Washington came into Pittsburgh and knocked off the NFL’s best team, 23-17.
The Steelers had a chance to take the lead after Washington tied the game in the fourth quarter, but head coach Mike Tomlin decided not to attempt a 46-yard field goal with first-game NFL kicker Matthew Wright, who was called up from the practice squad to replaced injured starter Chris Boswell.
Instead, Pittsburgh attempted a 4th and 1 pass, but Roethlisberger’s throw to rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was incomplete.
Washington then took the ball on a nine-play, 45-yard drive that ended with a 45-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to put Washington in the lead for the first and only time in the game.
The big play on that drive was a 25-yard pass from Alex Smith to Cam Sims. Sims was a thorn in the Steelers’ side all evening, making several big plays. He finished with five catches for 92 yards.
Sims also helped set up a controversial field goal at the end of the first half for Washington, which saw the officials stop a running clock in the final 10 seconds of the half for ball placement, allowing Hopkins to put Washington on the board after Pittsburgh had opened up a 14-0 first-half lead.
Washington took the second-half kickoff and went 95 yards over 14 plays, capped by a 1-yard Peyton Barber plunge.
Wright converted from 37 yards to put the Steelers back up by seven, by Smith found wide open tight end Logan Thomas from 15 yards out after another long drive against the Pittsburgh defense to tie things up.
Thomas finished with nine catches for 98 yards and running back J.D. McKissic had 10 catches for 70 as Washington attacked the Steelers’ defense underneath.
Hopkins also converted from 45 yards out after the Roethlisberger interception to give Washington its final margin of victory. The crucial turnover was the only one of the game.
The Steelers out-gained Washington, 326 to 318, but had just 21 yards on the ground and twice could not convert in crucial short-yardage situations.
Now 11-1, the Steelers missed a chance to clinch an NFL playoff spot, but remain the AFC’s No. 1 seed, holding the first tiebreaker with 11-1 Kansas City. Pittsburgh will travel to Buffalo next Sunday for an 8:20 p.m. kickoff.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”