It's over for Redskins, Three Rivers Stadium

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2000

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers know how to say goodbye, even if the Washington Redskins don't.

The Steelers, playing the final game in the stadium where they dominated pro football in the 1970s, took advantage of numerous Washington breakdowns and five turnovers to usher out Three Rivers Stadium with a 24-3 victory Saturday.

Afterward, the Steelers celebrated as if they had just won a championship. They hugged, snapped locker room pictures of each other, then took a victory lap during an elaborate postgame ceremony.

Fifty former Steelers -- Hall of Famer Franco Harris stood a few yards away from where he made his famed Immaculate Reception in 1972 -- looked on, giving the team an emotional lift in a game that had little significance other than the stadium closing.

''To me, it was like the last playoff game at Three Rivers,'' linebacker Levon Kirkland said. ''This was an opportunity to add to the history of this stadium, and I'm real proud of it.''

Rookie Hank Poteat highlighted a 17-point second quarter with a 53-yard punt return touchdown, and Richard Huntley, who had scored only once previously this season, had two touchdowns as the Steelers (8-7) maintained their very faint playoff hopes.

Two months before Three Rivers is imploded, the Redskins (7-8) did. They lost their sixth in seven games in a dispirited performance that eliminated them from the postseason and couldn't have helped interim coach Terry Robiskie's chances of returning.

The Redskins have been outscored 56-16 by the Cowboys and Steelers since Robiskie replaced Norv Turner, and didn't mount the semblance of an offense on a rain-soaked field Saturday.

''This team is in disarray,'' defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson said. ''It's sad, very sad. It's like an avalanche, and it keeps piling on and getting bigger and bigger.''

Even when the Redskins apparently got into the end zone, on backup quarterback Brad Johnson's 30-yard completion to Stephen Alexander in the fourth quarter, they couldn't score. Alexander fumbled just before he crossed the goal line and the ball went out of bounds for a touchback.

Poteat had earlier given the Steelers a 10-3 lead, fielding Tommy Barnhardt's punt on the run and streaking to his right on a 53-yard return score at 3:35 of the second quarter.

''It was designed to be open in the middle, but I saw an opening to the right and I took it,'' Poteat said. ''I almost got tripped up but once I got by that, I knew I was off.''

It was the Steelers' first punt-return touchdown in five years but the second against the Redskins' low-rated special teams this season. Washington has a $100 million roster loaded with former Pro Bowl players, yet has allowed three kick return scores.

''Obviously, we still have problems with special teams,'' Robiskie said. ''They're killing us.''

On the Redskins' next possession, Jeff George -- owner Daniel Snyder's hand-picked choice to start -- threw his second interception of the quarter as Chad Scott wrestled the ball away from receiver Albert Connell.

Huntley, who had 56 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, then scored on a 3-yard run 28 seconds before halftime. Jerome Bettis ran for 104 yards as the Steelers outrushed Washington 190-64.

''We knew if we kept pounding it at those guys, it would wear on them,'' Huntley said. ''We kept pounding it play after play.''

The Redskins, down 17-3, had a chance to get back into the game early in the third quarter when Steelers punter Josh Miller dropped a wet ball and was tackled for an 18-yard loss at the Steelers' 19. But Stephen Davis fumbled on the next play, and Washington didn't seriously threaten again.

The Steelers finished 182-73 in their 31 seasons in Three Rivers, where they fielded four Super Bowl champions in the stadium's first decade of existence. They had only one losing record there, going 2-6 last year.

Notes: Extra security was on hand, and there were no problems with fans trying to take home any stadium souvenirs. ... The steady rain held the crowd to 58,183, or 1,417 below capacity. ... Davis, a 1,000-yard rusher, was held to 39 yards and has 125 yards in his last three games. ... Bettis has 1,290 yards rushing, the fourth-best season in Steelers history. ... Fox's Dick Stockton was the play-by-play announcer for the first and last games in Three Rivers. He called a 1970 Giants-Steelers exhibition for Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV.



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