Big Ben, defense sharp as Steelers beat Bills 17-0
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Ben Roethlisberger(notes) hurriedly left the Steelers’ locker room wearing a ring that looked to be half the size of a football. A few minutes earlier, he showed why he’s won two oversized Super Bowl rings the last four seasons.
Roethlisberger played a nearly flawless first half in his first game since injuring his right foot, James Farrior(notes) had a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown and Buffalo’s starting offense struggled yet again as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Bills 17-0 in a preseason game Saturday night.
Roethlisberger led two scoring drives while going 15 of 19 for 168 yards with a 103.5 passer rating before sitting out the second half—showing why coach Mike Tomlin didn’t seem all that worried when his quarterback bruised his foot during the final training camp practice Aug 20. Roethlisberger didn’t play in a 17-13 loss to Washington two days later.
Big Ben’s big championship ring wasn’t his own: It was Shaquille O’Neal’s, which the quarterback gained possession of—for a week—during a reality TV show that pits Shaq against stars in other sports. Roethlisberger had more trouble winning that passing competition than he did throwing against the Bills.
“I was really proud of the way the guys were able to move the ball and … change some plays at the line of scrimmage,” Roethlisberger said. “We made some mistakes early, but then we drove down the field.”
Rashard Mendenhall(notes) ran 16 times for 48 yards with Willie Parker(notes) out with a hamstring injury, although the first-round pick from last season fumbled inside the Bills 30 on Pittsburgh’s opening possession. Mendenhall came back to score from the 4 on a 13-play, 87-yard drive in which Roethlisberger looked ready for the regular season, finding Limas Sweed(notes) for 16 yards, Hines Ward(notes) for 19 and Heath Miller(notes) for 18.
“We put the ball on the ground, but I liked the way we moved it,” Tomlin said.
For the Bills’ offense, it was more of the same—no touchdowns, no sustained drives and little yardage, or much like it’s been throughout a preseason in which a newly installed no-huddle scheme has mostly been a no-go.
“Maybe they need to huddle up a little more,” Farrior joked.
It probably didn’t help going against a Steelers starting defense that has yet to allow a touchdown in three exhibition games.
“We’ve got a lot of issues that we’ve got to solve,” coach Dick Jauron said. “We’ve got to solve them very quickly.”
With the starters playing the first half for both teams, the Steelers outgained the Bills 209-50 and led 12-3 in first downs and nearly 3 to 1 in time of possession.
“That’s a great defense,” said quarterback Trent Edwards(notes), who was 6-of-13 for 31 yards. “They’re very talented. On our side, we didn’t get the job done. We left our defense on the field too long. … It is frustrating, but the thing is we have a lot to learn. We’re still fighting and it’s still early.”
Wide receiver Terrell Owens(notes), missing a third consecutive game with a sprained toe, probably can’t return soon enough to an offense that is becoming a big worry as the Sept. 14 opener against New England draws closer. In four preseason games—the Bills played in the Hall of Fame game—Buffalo’s starters have only 303 yards, 15 first downs, a field goal and five turnovers.
“Frustrating. I feel like we’re a much better offense than we showed tonight,” wide receiver Josh Reed(notes) said. “It’s still the preseason, but we still want to come out and give a better effort than it felt like we gave tonight.”
Pittsburgh outgained the Bills 359-135 and led 41:15 to 18:45 in time of possession. Buffalo moved past midfield only twice, both with Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) at quarterback in the second half, and no Bills running back gained more than 19 yards.
“I’ll say we have more of a sense of urgency (than panic),” Reed said. “We’ve got to make sure everyone’s still on the same page and nobody’s down. We’ve got to keep everybody up and keep pushing.”