PITTSBURGH – Steelers fans, many of them in person as a crowd of 45,374 sat inside Heinz Field, were blessed to see some vintage Ben Roethlisberger to open Pittsburgh’s third preseason game against the Lions. And that vintage Roethlisberger led the Steelers on two scoring drives, both resulting in touchdowns, that sent the team en route to a 26-20 victory over Detroit.
It was the Steelers’ oldest player connecting with one of their youngest to put Pittsburgh up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. Roethlisberger connected with rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth at the end of two long drives. The future Hall of Fame quarterback was able to take advantage of the Penn State product’s length, putting the ball a little high but in range of Freiermuth’s long arms. The second touchdown was set up by a big 46-yard catch and run by Najee Harris, who made multiple defenders miss and stayed in bounds to quickly move the ball down the field.
The Steelers dominance continued on throughout the rest of the first half, owning the time of possession battle 20:21 to 9:39 for Detroit. Mason Rudolph, who took over for Roethlisberger following the fourth offensive series, stayed in the game through the third quarter, playing well with 13 completions on 18 attempts for 138 yards, but failed to get his team into the end zone. Dwayne Haskins received time in the fourth quarter with the game in hand, going 3 for 6 for 37 yards.
Detroit did put together a comeback effort late in the fourth quarter led by quarterback David Blough and running back Craig Reynolds. Haskins was then able to end the game in and hold the ball for the final two minutes, giving Pittsburgh the win.
While most of the focus is often on the Steelers offense due to learning a new system, especially in this game after finally seeing Roethlisberger handle the first team group in a game, the Steelers defense did record a mostly stellar day, posting a shutout through the first half.
Pittsburgh’s secondary may have taken a huge hit with cornerback Arthur Maulet leaving the game with an ankle injury. Mualet’s injury comes on the heels of speculation that he could be emerging as the starting slot corner.
The Steelers now look to cap off an undefeated preseason next week in Carolina. And while many could point to this win coming over a struggling Lions team and it’s also true that wins do not matter in the preseason, winning certainly beats the alternative for a team trying to develop chemistry and conclude some key position battles before the regular season gets underway.
Pittsburgh will take on the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Friday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m.