Football Team

Washington's offensive supporting cast starred vs. Steelers

Football Team

Thanks to a toe injury that ended his night prematurely, Antonio Gibson had just two carries against Pittsburgh. Thanks to a capable Steelers defense, Terry McLaurin had just two catches.

And thanks to a ton of contributions from their supporting cast on offense, Washington somehow still left Heinz Field victorious on Monday even though their reliable stars didn't shine like they usually do.

While the hosts blanketed McLaurin throughout the game, they couldn't figure out what to do with Thomas. The tight end finished with nine grabs for 98 yards, which were both career highs, and he was instrumental in both of the Football Team's touchdowns, as he scored one and hauled in an Alex Smith pass to set up the other.

Cam Sims — who entered 2020 with only two catches as a pro — was also vital to the effort. He registered receptions that spanned 30, 31 and and 29 yards, the last of which was a sick one-hander that put Ron Rivera's club in position to kick the go-ahead field goal. Overall, he produced a stat line of 5/92/18.4.

Then there's JD McKissic, whom Smith found 10 different times on the evening for a total of 70 yards (like Thomas, those were also career-high outputs for the running back). Seven of those came in the second half, the portion of the win where Washington's offense really got going. It always seems like McKissic is picking up seven-yard gains or getting past the markers for a first down, and he continued that trend in Week 13.

 

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"We know most teams are going to try to take Terry away because he's a great player, man, a phenomenal player," Sims said afterward. "So we know everybody else just got to step up their game, because it feels like they're not respecting us, so we got to do our thing."

The respect should certainly be there now for Sims, as well as the other non-Gibson and McLaurin pieces, after what went down on Monday.

A lot of the credit should go to Smith, since he's been stellar at spreading the ball around like an NBA point guard does in the first quarter. When he's leading the unit, everyone else has to run their routes the way they should be run and everyone needs to be prepared to be targeted, because he's going to try and get all his guys involved. The ones hanging out on the sidelines practically have to be ready for a look, too. 

Yet Thomas, Sims and McKissic deserve their own props. Each member of that trio is putting up numbers that tower over what they had done previously in the league. Opportunities are coming their way, and they're turning those opportunities into important yards for the Burgundy and Gold.

"We have more than one playmaker," Rivera declared to reporters a few minutes after the result became official and the Steelers were undefeated no more.

In August, it would've been easy to doubt the legitimacy of that statement. In early December, however, Rivera is correct. It appears that he has plenty of them, in fact.