The most important dress rehearsal of the preseason took place Saturday night at Heinz Field and the results were mixed for the Steelers.
There was some good, some bad and some real ugly penalties and special teams play. There also was a chest injury that sent first-round draft choice Jarvis Jones to the hospital to be evaluated.
The Steelers lost for the third time this summer, 26-20, when Kansas City's Chase Daniel threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rico Richardson on the first possession of overtime.
Ryan Succop kicked a 38-yard field goal for the Chiefs with 1:32 left to tie it, 20-20, and send the game into overtime.
The part that counted the most in a game that does not count, however, occurred in the first half when the first teams for both sides played to a 10-10 tie.
Ben Roethlisberger's offense finally scored a touchdown when he scrambled around under heavy pressure and threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Jonathan Dwyer.
Roethlisberger played at his best in his longest preseason appearance. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 166 yards, including a 49-yarder to Antonio Brown. He was sacked twice and knocked around twice as much as the Steelers pass protection still looked shaky. This, even though tackle Kelvin Beachum lined up as a blocking tight end most of the first half.
Still, Roethlisberger thought he had yet another touchdown pass of 34 yards when he hit Emmanuel Sanders with a perfect throw inside the 5. Sanders landed in the end zone but bobbled the ball as he slid out of bounds and it was ruled no catch.
"We did some nice things," coach Mike Tomlin said of his first-team offense. "We're a juggling catch away from it being a very productive half offensively."
The running game did not fare as well. Dwyer, who played most every snap of the first half, ran eight times for 25 yards with three receptions for 20.
"I'd like to see us win the line of scrimmage more definitively," Tomlin said. "Not enough in terms of the running game to talk about [in the first half]."
Newcomer Felix Jones carried twice for 7 yards in the first two quarters, but displayed a lack of awareness of the game situation late in the half. He ran out of bounds to stop the clock on a third-down play far short of the sticks.
The ensuing punt, which veteran Brian Moorman shanked, gave Kansas City the ball with 1:18 to go and the Chiefs needed only a minute to move 72 yards to tie the score when Alex Smith threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway with 21 seconds left.
Troy Polamalu aided that Kansas City drive with a high hit to Smith after he completed a 12-yard pass. That tacked on another 15 yards.
Kansas City's first scoring drive -- a 19-yard field goal by Succop -- also featured a personal foul by the Steelers when Cortez Allen was blocked into Smith out of bounds after the quarterback scooted 38 yards on a bootleg.
"We don't give up points unless we get penalties in drives," Tomlin said. "That's the point we make to the guys, not only in this game but all preseason. That's the reality of it. We play great football. We had a chance to play great defense. We didn't do it at the end of the half, and they scored 10 points because of it."
Tomlin won't be as harsh on Allen because that penalty should not have been called, but the letter from the league office informing Polamalu of his fine could already be in the mail. Also, Tomlin seemed upset with the officials over a chop block called on Dwyer, who said his coach told him it should have been legal. In all, the Steelers had nine penalties for 98 yards.
"Obviously, we were highly penalized," Tomlin said. "In my opinion, some of those calls were suspect, but such is life in August."
For the most part, the first-team defense played a decent half.
"It felt like we dominated in the first half but it was still 10-10," safety Ryan Clark said.
There also were two more special teams gaffes in a sea of them this summer.
The first came when Tysyn Hartman blocked Shaun Suisham's 52-yard field-goal try, which started the Chiefs' own field-goal drive to cut the lead to 10-3.
The second happened late in the third quarter after rookie Markus Wheaton caught Bruce Gradkowski's perfectly thrown 34-yard touchdown pass 2 yards into the end zone and behind two Chiefs defenders.
The touchdown put the Steelers back on top, 17-10, with 1:59 to play in the third. The Chiefs tied it 14 seconds later. Knile Davis returned the kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown. You cannot run one back any farther than that. Josh Victorian had perfect position to bring Davis down, but whiffed as Davis blew by him.
If you're scoring at home, that's a 109-yard touchdown return, a blocked field goal, one blocked punt and a lost fumbled punt in three games against the Steelers' shaky special teams.
Roethlisberger and Dwyer bowed out at halftime, but Gradkowski looked good running the offense in the second half. Like Roethlisberger, he easily could have had two touchdown passes. Another one to Wheaton, from 25 yards, was caught just out of bounds in the end zone.
First Published August 25, 2013 12:15 AM