The no-huddle offense that worked so well in the second half of the 2013 season picked up where it left off with an impressive display Saturday night in the second preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger operated the no-huddle in all three series he played. The first two drives produced touchdowns and the third drive ended when tight end Heath Miller's catch on third-and-10 only netted 9 yards near midfield.
Otherwise, it was a big success. On the Steelers second play, Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 76-yard touchdown.
On the second series, after rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier returned an interception into Buffalo territory, Roethlisberger led an eight-play drive that ended when wide receiver Markus Wheaton caught a 16-yard touchdown on third-and-11.
The Steelers were 3 for 4 on third downs in the no-huddle. Roethlisberger was 8 for 11 for 128 yards.
"I thought it was good," Roethlisberger said. "It's about communicating with [offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley]. He's in my ear telling me different thoughts. That's how this thing should work. I thought we did a good job. The communication is what I wanted to work on, and we didn't have any mental errors."
The play to Brown was an audible.
"It was a great read by Ben," Brown said. "The defensive back got caught up with another guy. Ben hit me in the spot, and I was able to get up to speed and turn the corner."
The first-team defense allowed three points against Buffalo's first-team offense. One negative was the Bills rushing for 64 yards on 18 carries in the first half.
"We are still growing, and it's still the preseason," linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "I feel like we did great. We missed a few plays here and there, but, as a whole, I feel like we played pretty good defense. We played the line of scrimmage well. We are still a long way from where we want to be."
Jones goes second
Landry Jones replaced Roethlisberger with 5:34 remaining before halftime and got a chance to play behind the first-team offensive line for the first time.
But Jones did not take advantage of the opportunity. After two running plays, his first pass attempt was intercepted by Buffalo cornerback Nickell Robey.
Jones also started the second half with the second-team offensive line. His first series ended with a punt. His second series ended with a fumble after a 40-yard screen pass to Dri Archer put the Steelers in Buffalo territory.
It was the second consecutive game Archer, the Steelers' third-round draft pick this year, took a screen pass for 40 or more yards. He had a 46-yarder last week against the New York Giants.
Run game struggles
The Steelers ran 20 offensive plays in the first half with the first-team offensive line in the game. They threw 12 times and ran eight for only 10 yards. Le'Veon Bell had four rushes for 11 yards. LeGarrette Blount rushed three times for 0 yards, and Jones took a knee to end the half.
The running game with the first-team offense was much more successful with the starters against the Giants. Bell and Blount averaged 6.0 yards per carry in that game.
Two starters out
Starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin), in and out of practice in the first three weeks of training camp, did not dress.
He was replaced by four-year veteran Chris Carter, but Carter only lasted one series with the starters before being replaced by Arthur Moats.
Carter lost contain on a pass rush that allowed Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel to scramble for a 5-yard gain.
Starting fullback Will Johnson, who injured a hamstring last week and missed two days of practice, also did not dress. Several reserves also did not play as linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, cornerbacks Shaq Richardson and Devin Smith, safety Will Allen, tight end Matt Spaeth and long snapper Greg Warren sat out because of injuries.
No chip shot
No one noticed last week because no extra points were missed, but the new 33-yard extra point came into play for the Steelers against the Bills. Place-kicker Shaun Suisham missed the attempt after Brown's 76-yard touchdown. The 33-yard extra point is experimental. The extra point will go back to the usual distance for the final two weeks of preseason and the regular season. Still, it has been a rough preseason for Suisham, who missed a 38-yarder last week against the Giants. Suisham missed two field-goal attempts last season.
It's a snap
Luke Ingram was barely noticeable, and that's a good thing. Ingram likely will be the long snapper until veteran Greg Warren is able to return from a knee injury that is expected to keep him out one month.
Added to the roster Thursday, Ingram snapped on extra points, field goals and punts.
Ingram was in camp with the Steelers last summer before getting cut.
Rookie Bryce Davis, who also plays tight end, is a long snapper, but it does not appear he is a candidate to replace Warren.
Bills first-round pick Sammy Watkins was injured early in the first quarter and did not return. Watkins was injured on an incomplete pass when Shazier bumped into the rookie wide receiver after the play. ... Safety Shamarko Thomas forced a fumble and cornerback Robert Golden recovered it on the Bills' first drive of the third quarter. Later in the third quarter, Golden intercepted a pass that ended a Bills drive at the Steelers 15. ... Steelers reserve offensive guard Bryant Browning injured his shoulder in the third quarter. Fifth-round pick Wesley Johnson entered the game at center as Cody Wallace moved to guard. ... Attendance was 50,434.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.
First Published August 17, 2014 12:00 AM