Roethlisberger sharp, Mariota not in Steelers’ 16-6 win over Titans
By WILL GRAVES
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger believes his right arm feels as good as it has at any point in his 15-year career. Maybe too good.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback threw for 114 yards and a touchdown in his brief preseason cameo during a 16-6 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, the 36-year-old admits it’s the throws he didn’t make that will stick with him as the defending AFC North champions get ready for the Sept. 9 season opener at Cleveland.
“I wasn’t real happy with the way I threw the ball tonight,” said Roethlisberger, who completed 11 of 18 passes in three series. “I was kind of sailing some passes.”
Blame it on a combination of rust and the adrenaline rush that comes when facing an opposing pass rush for the first time in eight months.
Still, there was plenty to like from Roethlisberger and the starting offense even without star wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, including a 32-yard rainbow from Roethlisberger to Justin Hunter in the first quarter for Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown.
“I wanted to leave one in play for him and I’m glad he made the play,” Roethlisberger said.
New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner allowed Roethlisberger to do a little bit of everything. They dabbled in no-huddle, earned at least two first downs on all three drives and Roethlisberger managed to spread the ball around even as he tried to get a handle on his accuracy.
“A lot of guys caught passes and guys made plays,” Roethlisberger said. “So when you don’t have those big names out there, I like it because it showed to everybody that we can do it.”
Meanwhile, Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota’s hot start to the preseason — he’d led the Titans to touchdowns on two of the three drives he worked coming in — came to an abrupt halt against a defense that led the NFL in sacks last season.
Mariota completed just five of eight passes for 43 yards while playing most of the first half. He missed a wide-open Corey Davis for what would have been a long touchdown on Tennessee’s opening drive and his afternoon ended late in the second quarter when Steelers rookie safety Terrell Edmunds picked off a floater intended for Taywan Taylor.
“Should’ve made that throw on third down, give Corey a chance to score,” Mariota said. “They busted the coverage. We should’ve made the most of that one.”
Davis took the blame for the incompletion, calling it a “miscommunication.” Either way it was as close as Tennessee’s first-string offense came to a big play. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for 23 yards rushing on eight carries. Tennessee’s lone touchdown came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to tight end Anthony Firkser in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve shown flashes of stuff we can do, we show flashes of potential, but potential means nothing,” Mariota said. “You’ve got to go out there and continue to get better and looking at this game, this past game, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Chicago 27, Kansas City 20
Pittsburgh 16, Tennessee 6
L.A. Rams 21, Houston 20
Indianapolis 23, San Francisco 17
Jacksonville 17, Atlanta 6
Baltimore 27, Miami 10
New Orleans 36, L.A. Chargers 7
Today’s Games (HST)
Cincinnati at Buffalo, 10 a.m. (FOX)
Arizona at Dallas, 2 p.m. (NBC)