Steelers’ perfect season shelved trying for twelve: Pittsburgh dropped by Washington Football Team

Photo courtesy: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers dropped the chance to extend their perfect season to 12-0 — literally.

Pittsburgh’s pass catchers were plagued by a case of the drops and Washington took advantage by securing a 23-17 upset at Heinz Field, dropping the Steelers to 11-1.

“I’m excited about facing the adversity of losing with this group, and smiling in the face of it, and preparing and getting ready for our next challenge,” head coach Mike Tomlin said in his post-game video conference.

“You get a chance to learn about yourself, who you are, what you’re made of, individually and collectively, and it takes the journey to reveal that. We’re faced with a loss now, so we’ll get an opportunity to smile in the face of it.”

There weren’t many smiles in the Steelers’ receiving corps because there were at least seven passes that slipped through the hands of their intended targets, the most in a single NFL game in 2020 and Pittsburgh’s highest total in their last 15 seasons. 

“We just gotta make routine plays routinely. A lot of them would be characterized as routine,” Tomlin said.

Second-year receiver Diontae Johnson was targeted a team-high 12 times, which resulted in eight receptions for 71 yards and one touchdown. However, Johnson dropped three passes, making him the league leader in drops with nine through 12 games. As a team, the Steelers lead the NFL with 34 dropped passes.

Canadian Chase Claypool did not allow a ball thrown his way to hit the turf through his hands. He made two receptions for 38 yards, one a leaping 30-yard grab, drew a pass interference penalty and had the football knocked away on his other target. It’s the first loss of Claypool’s career in the NFL.

The 22-year-old has 47 receptions for 649 yards and eight touchdowns along with nine rushes for 22 yards with two scores on the season, totaling 10 touchdowns in 12 games. The six-foot-four, 238-pound receiver has seven games with 50 or more receiving yards during his rookie season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 32-of-52 pass attempts for 283 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. It was a tipped pass with under two minutes left that was picked off by linebacker Jon Bostic.

“It stinks, it’s been a while since we’ve lost a game. It’s not a good feeling, but we’ll prepare for a short week and get ready to go again,” Roethlisberger said in his post-game video conference.

“We just need to make plays. I need to deliver us in the plays that are best suited for situations. It starts with me, I need to be better — plenty of room for improvement.”

The Steelers were trying to become the ninth team to start the season with a 12-0 record since the 16-game schedule was adopted by the NFL in 1978. Pittsburgh was in a difficult position playing the middle game of a stretch that had three contests in 12 days.

Tomlin will have to refocus his team as the Steelers battle with the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh travels to Buffalo for a Sunday Night Football match-up in Week 14.