Steelers Notebook: Big Ben makes preseason debut, overcomes nerves
New York's Bruce Johnson breaks up a pass into the end zone for Antwaan Randle El in the first half Saturday night at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He appeared for 20 plays and produced only three points. But to Ben Roethlisberger, making his first appearance on the football field since being handed a six-game suspension by commissioner Roger Goodell, it felt a whole lot better than that.
He played under the watchful eye of president emeritus Dan Rooney, who flew in from Dublin, Ireland, to watch his quarterback play for the first time since the 2009 regular-season finale.
"For sure, I was definitely nervous," said Roethlisberger following the 24-17 win. "But I expected that. That only lasted a couple plays. I was hoping to take a hit, but you don't want to get hit too hard."
Roethlisberger was told he would start and play approximately 12 plays, but he ended up playing 20 because his final drive, which produced a 26-yard field goal by Jeff Reed, lasted 13 plays.
"I would have gone the whole game if I could," he said.
Then he added, "It felt great. I thought the guys did a good job. I thought it went pretty well, but we thought we could do some more good things."
If the Steelers wanted to find out a little more about right tackle Flozell Adams against the Giants, they had mixed reviews. Adams was penalized for holding linebacker Michael Boley on one play and was beaten to the inside by defensive end Justin Tuck on the play in which Roethlisberger was pressured into an interception.
Adams played the first three series with Roethlisberger then was replaced by Jonathan Scott.
Coach Mike Tomlin said he wanted to work Scott and No. 1 pick Maurkice Pouncey with the rest of the first-team offensive line against the Giants. Pouncey came in for the second series with Roethlisberger still in the game, then replaced starter Justin Hartwig for good after the third series.
Pouncey was just as impressive as he was against the Detroit Lions, but the Steelers got a small scare when he hobbled off the field with a thigh injury after opening a big hole up the middle on Isaac Redman's 12-yard touchdown run. But, Pouncey returned for the next series and played through the end of three quarters.
It might have been the first time a quarterback managed to not underthrow receiver Mike Wallace.
Wallace, the team's fastest receiver, actually got to run under a 68-yard touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich in the second quarter because Leftwich threw the ball nearly 60 yards in the air.
"That was a great throw by Byron," Wallace said. "He put it on the money. I didn't have to break stride. Ben has thrown it like that plenty of times."
Then Wallace added, "That's what I do -- I love catching touchdowns. Who doesn't like catching touchdowns? I just got deep and that's what I do."
Cornerback Ike Taylor and Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks were each ejected less than two minutes into the game for throwing punches during a brief skirmish on the opening series.
Taylor was replaced by Keenan Lewis, who moved to left cornerback -- his usual side -- after the first series. Lewis later sustained a concussion and did not return.
Nicks accused Taylor of throwing the first punch.
"It was kind of like a little bit on both sides," Taylor said. "I apologized to my teammates and I'm apologizing to the fans right now. It won't happen again, especially from an eight-year veteran."
Cornerback Joe Burnett had the only interception, making a nice grab when the ball deflected off the hands of receiver Mario Manningham. But the pick went for naught when, with no timeouts remaining, Mewelde Moore was stopped on third down from the 1 and time expired.
Rookie receiver Antonio Brown didn't stand out the way Stefan Logan did last year in the second preseason game, but he was more than serviceable returning kicks and punts against the Giants. Brown had punt returns of 8 and 14 yards, both in the first half, and kick returns of 26 and 24 yards. But will it be enough to cause Tomlin to consider cutting Logan?
"Nice job in dual duty," Tomlin said of Brown, who also had two catches for 12 yards.
Tomlin said Redman sustained a rib injury in the second quarter but returned to the game. ... The Steelers don't have to cut anyone till Aug. 31 -- two days after their next preseason game in Denver -- and even then it's only five players to get down to the 75-man limit. .... Rookie RB Jonathan Dwyer (shoulder) and DE Steve McClendon (knee) did not play.
First Published August 22, 2010 12:15 am