The Washington Football Team beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17.
(Courtesy Photo

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer

An NFL weekend of upsets continued with nothing short of an improbable victory by the Washington Football Team in Pittsburgh on Monday night.  Montez Sweat’s deflection and John Bostic’s interception put the finishing touches on what may have become a franchise changing victory and ended the Steelers’ run to perfection as Washington beat them   23-17 by dominating the second half at Heinz Field.

Washington won for the third consecutive time after they opened the season 2-7.  They are now tied with the New York Giants in the NFC East although Washington trails after losing both games to this rival so they would still need some help to earn the lone playoff spot representing the division.

“We’re on a roll,” said Sweat. “This is the kind of football we’ve been wanting to play since Game one.”

Pittsburgh had won 78 of their 80 previous games when leading at halftime when playing at Heinz Field.  However, Washington’s ability to impose its will on their opponents wore down the Steelers in the second half and brought them back from a 14-3 halftime deficit as the Steelers suffered their second worst loss home when leading since moving in franchise.  Until Monday Pittsburgh was undefeated, however, Washington stuck to a script that has reflected the culture of toughness that Head Coach Ron Rivera has brought from Charlotte.

“Despite some of the decisions I made today they played their off today,” Rivera said.

The resilience that has marked Washington’s play in the second half all season led them to the franchise’s first victory in Pittsburgh since 1991.  They won despite losing running back Antonio Gibson in the first half to a painful turf toe injury that will linger for the rest of the season, but that wouldn’t stop them. J.D. McKissick stepped up by taking short passes that helped them move the chains especially in the second half.  McKissic only rushed for eight yards, but caught 10 passes for 70 yards that replaced the rushing attack that was negated.

 Alex Smith spread the ball to a corps of five receivers and Logan Thomas, for several game changers that torched the Pittsburgh secondary after intermission. Thomas, the former Virginia Tech quarterback, is blossoming into one of the best tight ends in the NFL and was the preferred receiver of choice when trying to keep possessions alive. He has emerged as Smith’s security blanket in the passing game with nine receptions for 98 yards and their first touchdown. 

Cam Sims also had a TD amongst his nine receptions and his one-handed, over the shoulder catch started their momentum building in the second prior to his score.  Terry McLaurin was held to only receptions but one was for a score.

Pittsburgh had their chances to put Washington away, but could never deliver the knockout blow.  The Steelers were kept from scoring from on the fourth down, when rookie Chase Young stopped Benny Snell at the one-yard line which swung the momentum for good. Washington forced Pittsburgh into playing a one dimensional offense and their passing game wasn’t enough 

However, after a short week, Washington travels to Arizona to face the COVID-19 displaced San Francisco 49’ers, before their final two home games against Seattle and Carolina before ending the season at Philadelphia which could be for the NFC East championship.

“These guys deserve this. We’ve been down for such a long time and we’re trying to rebuild ourselves and build up,” Rivera said. “This is something we can build off of.”