Shouldering the blame
Steelers' Washington regrets costly overtime miscuesPosted: Saturday January 11, 2003 10:26 PM
Updated: Sunday January 12, 2003 1:51 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 1 problem all season was their biggest problem in their biggest game: They couldn't cover anybody.
This time, it was Dewayne Washington, whose coverage failures put them into position to lose and whose ill-timed penalty in overtime set up the winning field goal in their 34-31 divisional playoff loss to Tennessee on Saturday.
Washington was beaten twice by receiver Justin McCareins to put the Titans into field-goal range. Washington followed that with his biggest miscue of all -- a penalty for running into the kicker that gave Joe Nedney a second chance.
Nedney then made the 26-yarder, sending the Steelers to their seventh playoff loss -- and one of their most frustrating -- under head coach Bill Cowher since 1992.
A recurring theme all season, the inability of their secondary to shut down opposing receivers, led to a familiar postseason finish for a team that usually waits until the AFC title game to lose.
"It's really tough right now," Washington said. "It's hard for me not to feel the burden of losing the game for us."
Nedney lined up for a 31-yard field goal in overtime and hooked it right. But Washington slid across Nedney's leg and referee Ron Blum threw a flag.
Washington admitted he and Nedney made "a little" contact at the end of the play, but said it shouldn't have been a penalty.
"Obviously he gave the fake fall at the end," Washington said.
Though acknowledging he might have engaged in a bit of theatrics, Nedney said the call was the right one. Of course, he wasn't about to say anything else.
"He got a pretty good hit on me. But I think when I'm done, I might try acting," Nedney said, smiling.
After Nedney made the game-winner, Steelers coach Bill Cowher sprinted across the field and shouted at Blum after the winning kick. As the Titans celebrated, Cowher claimed he called a timeout before the kick.
"For a game to be decided on that call is ludicrous," he said. "A game can't be decided because a kicker takes two steps and we have someone slide into him."
Of course, the Titans wouldn't have even been in that position if not for Washington's struggles on defense.
After the Titans received the opening kick in overtime, Steve McNair completed a 31-yard pass to McCareins to move the Titans to the Steelers 38.
McNair then hit McCareins on a 22-yard pass, again with Washington in coverage, and one play later, Nedney lined up for his first kick.
"Those are plays you've got to make -- a simple catch, a simple tackle," Washington said. "I missed a couple of tackles that I had to make."
Remarkably, Pittsburgh's season ended the way it started, with their defensive backs struggling to make plays. The Steelers started 0-2 when their secondary was shredded by New England's Tom Brady (294 yards) and Oakland's Rich Gannon (403 yards).
After that, opponents repeatedly challenged the secondary with
the no-huddle spread offense, and the Steelers' season ended with
Baltimore's Jeff Blake (336 yards), Cleveland's Kelly Holcomb (429
yards) and McNair (338) throwing for 1,103 yards against them on