By Teddy Brenner
The 1972 Miami Dolphins can relax.
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t going undefeated.
The Washington Football Team, which was 4-7 coming in, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season last night, coming from behind to knock off Pittsburgh 23-17.
So now WFT is 5-7, tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East while the Eagles are 3-8-1.
The Steelers are 11-1 and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the top record in the AFC. It’s tough to win 16 straight games, even when you’re supposed to win them.
The Steelers, who have had to play rescheduled games multiple times this season through no fault of their own, looked flat for the second straight week playing at a weird time. They didn’t look great against the Baltimore Ravens last Wednesday. The game against Washington was rescheduled from Sunday to yesterday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Steelers weren’t sharp.
Washington was a bad opponent to get on an off night because it plays hard. We’ve seen that all season. Even when Washington lost rookie running back Antonio Gibson early in the game, it still battled. Washington trailed 14-0 but got back in the game with a field goal at the end of the half, and then a long touchdown drive. Washington was backed up on its own 5-yard line facing a first-and-23 against one of the NFL’s best defenses. Washington drove all the way downfield to score a touchdown. That cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 14-10.
The Steelers got a field goal after that but Washington tied it up with 9:09 left. Tight end Logan Thomas, who found open spaces all night against Pittsburgh, caught a 15-yard touchdown from Alex Smith and the extra point tied it 17-17. Thomas had nine catches for 98 yards.
The Steelers could have tried a field goal for the lead after that, but Tomlin made a decision that will be discussed a lot this week.
The Steelers had an interesting decision with 4:57 left. They faced-fourth-and-1 at Washington’s 28-yard line in a tie game. They passed on a field-goal attempt — normal kicker Chris Boswell was out with an injury and Matthew Wright was making his NFL debut in his place — to go for it. They ran an empty backfield set and Roethlisberger threw incomplete to rookie running back Anthony McFarland.
Maybe if Boswell was healthy, Tomlin would have kicked the field goal. The cold weather at Heinz Field might have factored in his decision. Most coaches would gamble on the 45-yard attempt, or at least have a running back next to Roethlisberger instead of running an empty set. The Steelers will be second-guessed for that call.
That gave Washington a chance to win. A great one-handed catch by Cam Sims set Washington up in field-goal range. Dustin Hopkins hit a go-ahead field goal with 2:04 left. The Steelers had a chance to answer but Roethlisberger’s pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by linebacker Jon Bostic. That turned into a Washington field goal with 17 seconds left.
It was a great win for Washington, especially Smith and his phenomenal comeback story. You wouldn’t think one loss for an 11-0 team would be that bad, but the Steelers don’t want to lose the bye to the Chiefs. That’s in jeopardy after one of the biggest shockers of the NFL season.