Washington decided to let Antonio Brown beat it on Monday night

The Washington Redskins gave cornerback Josh Norman a five-year, $75 million deal this offseason. They thought, as many did, that Norman was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks and paid him accordingly.

That’s what made Monday night so strange. The Pittsburgh Steelers came in with receiver Antonio Brown, who might be the best player in the entire NFL regardless of position. If there was ever a situation in which the Redskins would ask their highly-paid, All-Pro cornerback to travel with a receiver, this was it.

Nope. The Redskins left Norman on the left side of the defense most of the night. He became a bystander while Brown predictably torched Washington’s secondary and took over the game. The Steelers won 38-16, with Brown going for eight catches, 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Norman, via Pro Football Talk, played good soldier afterward, saying, “I have total, 100 percent confidence in [defensive coordinator] Joe Barry. Everything he wants us to do, I’m 110 percent in.

“So if you’re looking for something from me, you aren’t getting it. I don’t have anything.”

Antonio Brown battles Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland (AP)
Antonio Brown battles Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland (AP)

It made no sense. Norman usually lines up on the left side of the defensive formation, but he has traveled with top receivers before. He did for a lot of his matchups against Julio Jones last year, when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Norman is capable of moving to shadow the opponent’s best receiver. While Bashaud Breeland is a good corner too, Washington lost on Monday night with its best cornerback mostly covering Eli Rogers, who was playing in his first career game. The Steelers’ No. 2 receiver, Markus Wheaton, missed the game with an injury.

“I think Breeland has done such a good job in training camp, and Breeland is one of our corners,” head coach Jay Gruden told the Washington Post. “[Breeland’s] a good corner, and he got beat by a great player today and some great passes that I don’t know what corner can defend. I’m not going to lose faith in Breeland, but there could be merit to that later on down the road.”

Breeland didn’t really have a chance. The Redskins didn’t give him a ton of safety help over the top, which was their second big misstep. Brown scored a 29-yard touchdown on a deep route on fourth-and-1 in the first half. In the second half he beat Breeland deep for a 26-yard touchdown. Both times Brown lined up on the left side of the offensive formation, away from Norman. Once the Steelers knew Norman was lining up on their right all night, with no adjustment coming from Washington, it became easy to dictate matchups.

In the first half, Brown lined up on the right on one play. Norman punched the ball out, almost for a fumble but it was ruled an incompletion. In the fourth quarter, Brown lined up on the right and Norman broke up a pass to him on second-and-13. After that play Norman was animated in talking to Brown, perhaps telling him to line up on his side more. But why? Things were going just fine with Brown lining up away from Norman.

Then just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, on third-and-5, the Steelers lined Brown up on the left, threw him the ball against Breeland and got an easy first down. DeAngelo Williams scored shortly after and that removed all doubt about the game’s outcome.

It’s hard to even figure out why the Steelers lined up Brown across from Norman and threw his way twice. They could easily avoid the Redskins’ All-Pro cornerback all night. They usually picked on Breeland instead, Brown had a huge night, and the Steelers won. Everyone could have seen that coming, except the Redskins apparently.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!