Ben Roethlisberger made his preseason debut on Saturday night at Heinz Field, and the 18-year veteran wasted no time showing why’s been in the league for so long in the Steelers’ eventual 26-20 win. On the Steelers’ first drive, he turned back the clock with a vintage Roethlisberger play to escape a sack but Eric Ebron dropped the throw down the right sideline. On the next possession after a defensive stop, Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson for 43 yards on third down to move the ball to the Detroit 32. A few plays later, Roethlisberger hit Pat Freiermuth for an eleven-yard touchdown and a Chris Boswell extra-point gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Arthur Maulet made a great play to pin Detroit on their own 13 yard line which led to a three and out which included a knockdown at the line of scrimmage from Tyson Alualu.
Pittsburgh started their third drive on their own 42 yard line but an impressive 46 yard catch and run from Najee Harris (10 rushing yards, 52 receiving yards) brought them to the Detroit 12 yard line. A four yard Anthony McFarland run got them inside the ten, and two plays later Roethlisberger hit Freiermuth again for his second score of the day. That would end Big Ben’s day, as he finished 8-10 for 137 yards and two touchdowns, leaving with a perfect passer rating.
Defensively, Alex Highsmith was impressive getting to the quarterback, forcing the Lions into a few incompletions.
Mason Rudolph was impressive in his first drive, going 5-6 for 46 yards and almost connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster (five catches, 39 yards) for a touchdown but Pittsburgh settled for a Chris Boswell field goal to give them a 17-0 lead.
The coverage team came through again to pin the Lions deep in their own territory in their next drive. On first down from the Detroit seven yard line, Melvin Ingram stopped Jermar Jefferson in the backfield for a three yard loss to back the Lions up to their four yard line. Jack Fox’s 70 yard punt pinned the Steelers at their own three yard line and a third down incompletion from Mason Rudolph on the drive was negated by a facemask penalty against Lions edge rusher Austin Bryant. The Steelers capitalized, as Rudolph hit Ebron for a 27 yard completion on the next play.
Later in the drive, on fourth and one, which was the Steelers’ kryptonite last season, Rudolph hit Smith-Schuster who broke a tackle and picked up 17 yards. A nine yard completion to Anthony McFarland and a 13 yard completion to James Washington set the Steelers up on their four yard line, but three straight incompletions led to Boswell’s second field goal of the game to give the Steelers a 20-0 halftime lead. It was a strong half on both sides of the ball as the Steelers outgained the Lions 285 to 65.
The second half started with a nice defensive possession, as Joe Schobert and Isaiah Buggs combined for a stop in the backfield and Justin Layne made a nice play in coverage to prevent a big completion to Geronimo Allison. After forcing the three and out, Matthew Sexton took back Jack Fox’s punt 47 yards to give the Steelers great starting field position at the Detroit 47 yard line. Rudolph hit Ebron for a 14 yard gain on second down to put the Steelers in business, and then Kalen Ballage picked up 11 yards, bouncing a run to the outside and making a nice move to make a man miss.
A couple short runs and passes later had the Steelers at the Detroit five yard line, and on third and four Rudolph went over the middle and had a would-be interception dropped by Derrick Barnes. Boswell came on and knocked in his third field goal of the game to cap off Pittsburgh’s fifth straight scoring drive and give them a 23-0 lead.
The Steelers got their first sack of the game on the next Lions possession, as Marcus Allen darted up the middle to chase Lions QB David Blough into Jamir Jones as the two combined for the sack. A couple of scrambles by Blough pushed the Lions into Steelers territory. A 4th down conversion, followed by a 15 yard completion to Brock Wright and a roughing the passer penalty by Isaiahh Loudermilk pushed the Lions to the Steelers seven yard line, and Godwin Igwebuike ran for a seven yard score to put Detroit on the board at 23-6. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
Dwayne Haskins came in to finish things off for the Steelers, and led a scoring drive highlighted by a 30 yard catch and run off a screen by Ray-Ray McCloud that was sprung by a really nice block from Cody White. A 42 yard Boswell field goal three plays later put Pittsburgh up 26-6.
The Lions added another touchdown on their next drive as David Blough hit Javon McKinley from 10 yards out to cut the Steelers lead to 26-13, and then recovered the onside kick. Blough hit Tom Kennedy for a 31 yard gain right before the two-minute warning to put Detroit at the Pittsburgh three, and Craig Reynolds finished off the drive with a three yard rushing TD to make the score 26-20 which would be the final score.
Joe Schobert had three tackles in his Steelers debut, while Miles Killebrew finished with six to lead the team. The Steelers will look to close out their preseason slate undefeated on Friday when they take on the Carolina Panthers at 7:30.