In the history of every NFL franchise there are pivot points, games that mark either the beginning of an extended string of success or the start of a downhill slide that lasts for multiple seasons.
The last time the Redskins faced the Steelers it was one of those pivotal moments. Washington was 6-2 that season and 30-26 overall in the previous three and a half seasons when the 5-2 Steelers came into town for a Monday night game.
It started to be apparent that something was wrong while coming through the parking lots going into the game. Steelers black and gold was all over the tailgating scene and the fans and their Terrible Towels filled many of the seats at FedEx Field. They probably didn’t make up more than about a fifth of the crowd but their noise and enthusiasm made it seem like there were many, many more.
And the Steelers faithful had good reason to be enthusiastic. The Redskins had some chances to score early but they had to settle for a pair of field goals and a 6-0 lead. But Pittsburgh took control from there and scored 23 unanswered points and won 23-6.
That was the beginning of a slide that saw Jim Zorn’s Redskins go 2-6 in the second half of the season. In one game shy of four full seasons since then, the Redskins are a dismal 20-43 and have not been in realistic playoff contention.
The Redskins go to Pittsburgh at 3-4. A win over a tough team on the road could propel them to a solid second half of the season, when they play five home games. It could mean meaningful games for the Redskins in late November and December.
In other words, it could be the kind of game that pivots the Redskins’ fortunes back in a positive direction.
A year ago, the Redskins would have had no shot at winning this game, even though it’s not exactly a vintage edition of the Steelers as they sit at 3-3. But they have Robert Griffin III so they have a chance. He almost orchestrated a major road upset last Sunday against the Giants but the Redskins’ pass defense erased the rally.
This time, it will be different. RG3 leads a late drive and it stands up.
Redskins 31, Steelers 24