PITTSBURGH — The Steelers lost a tight game on Tuesday night, as Washington took the lead with just over 2 minutes to play on a field goal in what became a 23-17 victory over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
In a game that tight, each and every potential scoring play looms large in the final result, and that was certainly the case with the controversial play that allowed Washington to get on the board late in the first half.
Washington had driven into field goal range with plenty of time to take a couple additional shots down field before the end of the half, but was out of timeouts when Stephon Tuitt sacked Alex Smith on a third down and long.
There were 17 seconds left on the clock when Smith hit the turf and the referee’s whistle blew. Nine seconds went off the clock as Washington hurried its field goal unit out there, and they got roughly lined up, but there was a problem.
There was no football.
Smith had carried the ball off the field with him and the officials had not been able to get a new ball, ideally a kicking ball or K ball, into play in time. With the Washington team closing in on the line of scrimmage, the officiating crew realized their mistake, and stopped the clock.
Without the pressure of a running clock, Dustin Hopkins and the field-goal unit worked flawlessly for a 49-yard field goal. Would they have been able to make the kick as easily if the ball had been placed and the clock had been running? It’s hard to say.
Was Smith running off with the ball a bit of gamesmanship to get a stoppage from the veteran? He says he was just trying to help the officials get a kicking ball into the game more quickly.
“I knew we were going hurry up field goal,” Smith said. “I was pretty upset with myself for taking the sack at that point but I was running off to trying to get that ball off so they could get the K ball on. Because usually that happens very seamlessly with the change over, but from what I understand talking to the refs I think there was a little bit of a problem with the COVID, there’s less people on the sidelines, less ball boys and that wasn’t as fluid.
“So, it was not intentional, really. I was just trying to speed up the process of us getting off and getting the K ball on so they could go kick it.”
The three points got Washington started, and they eventually completed a 14-point comeback to beat the Steelers by six.
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.”