(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Steelers fell to the Washington Football Team, 23-17, on Monday, giving the Steelers their first loss of the season. It was a game that Pittsburgh could have won, but they just couldn't execute in short-yardage situations and gave up some explosive plays on the defensive side in the second half that led to Washington outscoring the Steelers 20-3 in the second half and 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
The turning point of the game came on fourth-and-1 from Washington's 28-yard line with the score tied at 17-17 and 4:53 remaining in the game. Mike Tomlin decided to forgo a 45-yard field goal with kicker Matthew Wright who was activated from the practice squad to fill in for Chris Boswell who was out due to a hip injury.
Roethlisberger dropped back and threw a pass down the right sidelines to rookie third-string running back Anthony McFarland Jr. that fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs. The pass was a little behind McFarland and it would have been a tough grab to make. A receiver would have made that catch (maybe not if it was Diontae Johnson or Eric Ebron, who both had three drops against the Football Team). Washington linebacker Jon Bostic before the snap was late to getting out to cover McFarland, so that's why Roethlisberger might have targeted McFarland, but Mike Tomlin said after the game that McFarland was "absolutely" the No. 1 option on the play.
Roethlisberger spoke with the media on Wednesday in a Zoom interview and said he put the rookie running back in a bad position with his pass and he should have put the ball inside a little more.
"The safety was kind of cheating over his way a little bit, so I threw it to the outside probably a little more than I should have to a running back," Roethlisberger said. "I’ve got faith and belief in everybody that they can make every catch, but that throw probably was more suited for a receiver to make. If I could have it back I would have put it inside just a little bit more not a lot because like I said the safety was kind of on his way over there but just to keep him from drifting and trying to catch over the outside shoulder. I would have put it more up the field and maybe let him make the play. Looking back on it again, maybe not even throwing it up the field. He had (Jon) Bostic beat a little bit, maybe make him slow down and make the catch. I shouldn’t put a rookie running back in a position to make a wide receiver-type catch in my opinion."
Like Roethlisberger mentioned, the ball was a little outside and it's a tough catch to make for a running back, nevermind the fact that's he's a rookie and has just five receptions on the year, and isn't really known to be a receiving back. The play was there to be made, but in that situation, Chase Claypool would have been a better option to make that catch or any of the other receivers.