Steelers still have plenty to prove after exhibition win

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ben Roethlisberger's home debut has to wait another couple of weeks at least and Byron Leftwich's return to the Steelers lasted a little longer than he may have anticipated.

Roethlisberger dressed for Saturday's preseason opener against Detroit at very wet Heinz Field, but did not play.

It didn't matter.

The Steelers got solid efforts from young guys Dennis Dixon (6 of 7 for 128 yards and 158.3 passer rating), Isaac Redman (15-60) and Antonio Brown (68-yard touchdown catch) and three field goals from Jeff Reed in a 23-7 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The game was marred by a 73-minute lightning delay at the end of the first half.

"With the number of snaps that we anticipated running with the first team tonight, it just wasn't appropriate to play him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said about his decision to sit Roethlisberger. "He wanted to play, he was ready to play. We are going to continue to do what we plan to do. It wasn't in cards for him tonight."

Tomlin pointed to a plan that he has in place to get Dixon an extended look in preseason while also trying to get Leftwich ready to play the first month.

"We framed this thing in the very beginning that we are interested in this guy having a productive camp and preseason and we wanted to get clarity at the quarterback position and we acknowledged that since Dennis is a young guy we need to provide him with a lot of snaps," Tomlin said. "Based on that framework, we thought it was the appropriate thing to do with the limited the number of snaps with the first group. ... Ben is going to have an opportunity to play in the preseason."

Tomlin did not say whether Roethlisberger would play next week against the New York Giants. However, he did make it clear which unit he wants his franchise quarterback lining up with when he is on the field.

"We were not interested in sending Ben Roethlisberger out there with the second group," Tomlin said.

That left plenty of opportunities for Leftwich.

Despite saying the starters were only going to get 8-12 snaps, Tomlin kept Leftwich in the game for four series and 23 snaps that lasted midway through the second quarter.

"It felt good," Leftwich said. "It felt good to put that black and gold back on. To be back out there, to see a different uniform, it was nice."

Leftwich led the lethargic Steelers first-team offense on a pair of scoring drives albeit two field goals by Reed.

Leftwich finished 6 of 10 for 43 yards. He converted 2 of 5 third downs before giving way to Dixon.

"We weren't really clicking," Leftwich said. "That happens some times in the first preseason game. Good thing we've got three more. I hope they don't cut it down to two because we need all four of these preseason games to prepare for a season."

Rashard Mendenhall finished with two yards on five carries in his two series of work.

"We did OK, but we need to do better," guard Chris Kemoeatu said.

It could've helped if the Steelers had Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger appeared to be getting his first action since being suspended for the first month of the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Roethlisberger warmed up with the team and went through his pregame routine of talking to every teammate while they stretched. But that would be the only time he would see the field.

Dixon entered the game midway through the second quarter and led the Steelers on a touchdown drive.

The big play came when he rolled out and connected with Arnaz Battle. Battle made a move and raced 51 yards to the 10-yard line.

On the next play, Dixon took off around right end and snuck the ball over the goal-line for an apparent score.

The play was reviewed and officials ruled that Dixon was down at the 1.

On the ensuing play, Redman followed the block of fullback Doug Legursky for the touchdown and 13-7 lead.

"He is a human bowling ball," Dixon said of Redman.