It took almost nine quarters, but the first-team offense finally scored a touchdown Saturday night in the third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field. It came with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter, a 14-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jonathan Dwyer on third down.
The first-team offense had failed to score a touchdown in the first two preseason games. The only other offensive touchdown of the preseason was led by Landry Jones in the second game against Washington.
The Steelers scored on two of their first three possessions of the game -- Shaun Suisham booted a 28-yard field goal on the first -- but they bogged down on their final three possessions. They punted twice and Suisham had a 52-yard attempt blocked.
They were close to scoring another touchdown in the second quarter, but Emmanuel Sanders bobbled a catch in the end zone that officials ruled incomplete.
In five possessions in the first half, the first-team offense scored 10 points and gained 184 yards. It was the sharpest the first unit has looked. Roethlisberger was 13 for 19 for 166 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 113.
"We did some nice things," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're a juggling catch away from it being a very productive half offensively. I'd like to see us win the line of scrimmage more definitively. Not enough in terms of the running game to talk about at the half, but a decent start."
The running game, which had been successful in the first two games, struggled. The Steelers had 36 yards on 12 carries in the first two quarters. Dwyer led with 25 yards.
The first-team offense started the second half minus Roethlisberger. Backup Bruce Gradkowski took over.
Reserve offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum has added a new position to his seemingly endless repertoire. Beachum, a versatile player who can play anywhere on the offensive line, played tight end several times with the first-team offense.
Beachum lined up in a two-tight end formation, giving the Steelers a viable run blocker until starter Heath Miller returns. David Paulson is filling in for Miller, but is not known as an effective run blocker.
The Steelers ran several pass plays with Beachum in the game as well, which effectively took the pressure off struggling tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams in pass protection.
Officials appeared to botch two calls that went against the Steelers in the first half. Referee Jeff Triplette called Dwyer for an illegal chop block, even though the approaching Kansas City player was not engaged by another Steeler. The mistake negated a 25-yard pass to Antonio Brown to the Kansas City 17. After the penalty, the Steelers were forced to punt.
"I got an explanation," Tomlin said. "I can't tell you I agreed with it."
Later in the half, Cortez Allen was called for unnecessary roughness for a late hit out of bounds, but he was blocked into quarterback Alex Smith and did not initiate contact. The Chiefs kicked a field goal on the drive.
On the next Kansas City drive, Troy Polamalu had a head-to-head hit on Smith. Polamalu chased down a scrambling Smith, who attempted a pass just before Polamalu struck him. The play drew a 15-yard penalty and set up Kansas City's only touchdown of the first half.
"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."
Felix Jones, acquired in a trade Friday, got his first carry with the Steelers late in the second quarter. He was stopped for no gain. ... Reserve cornerback Curtis Brown left in the second quarter and was evaluated for a possible concussion. He returned in the second half. ... Former Chartiers Valley and California (Pa.) offensive lineman Eric Kush is a rookie vying for a spot on Kansas City's 53-man roster. Kush, a sixth-round draft choice, is the backup center.
Not dressing for the Steelers were RBs Isaac Redman, Le'Veon Bell and LaRod Stephens-Howling, CBs Isaiah Green and DeMarcus Van Dyke, LBs Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence, OL Justin Cheadle, DL Nick Williams, TE Matt Spaeth and Miller.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published August 25, 2013 4:00 AM