Monday, August 24, 2015

Preseason win comes at cost to Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers came away with their first win of the preseason but it came at great expense: Maurkice Pouncey and Stephon Tuitt.
The Pro Bowl center and starting defensive end sustained significant left ankle injuries in the Steelers' 24-19 win over Green Bay at Heinz Field on Sunday. Their return will likely be measured in weeks and not days. For a team that is looking for a strong start and and will already be without star running back Le'Veon Bell for the first two weeks of the season, the loss of Pouncey and Tuitt will be a significant blow.  
The loss marred what was otherwise a fairly strong showing as the Steelers scored twice in a span of 5:43 to beat Green Bay.
The Packers opened the game with a 10-play, 80 yard drive that took 5:06 off the clock, capped off with a seven yard touchdown run by running back Eddie Lacy. The Packers then converted the two point conversion with a run by James Starks to take an 8-0 lead.
The Steelers got their first points of the day when James Harrison sacked Aaron Rodgers in the end zone to make it 8-2. In the second quarter, the Steelers took lead when Ben Roethlisberger hit Markus Wheaton for a five yard touchdown to make it 9-8.
The Packers took the lead back right before halftime when quarterback Scott Tolzien connected with Ty Montgomery for a 21-yard touchdown, along with the two point conversion to take a 16-9 lead into halftime. After kickers Mason Crosby and Garrett Hartley traded field goals to make it 19-12 Packers, Landry Jones hit receiver Tyler Murphy for a 22-yard touchdown to cut Green Bay’s lead to 19-18.
With 4:26 to go in regulation, Jones found Shakim Phllips for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 24-19 win.
  • The Steelers struggled with the Packers’ no huddle offense on Green Bay’s first drive of the game. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went 80 yards in 10 plays to open the game and didn’t allow the Steelers to make any adjustments on defense. The Packers capped of the drive with a seven yard touchdown run by Eddie Lacy.
  • The Steelers offense converted two long third down attempts on their first drive of the game, with two 17-yard passes from  Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown and Wheaton. The Steelers moved the ball well, but two penalties forced them to punt.
  • The punting battle between Jordan Berry and Brad Wing continues to be tight. Berry punted in the first half and had one punt downed at the one yard line, including a 57-yarder. Wing punted in the second half and also kicked one 57 yards, with all three of his punts being downed inside the 20-yard line.
  • The Steelers weren’t the only ones who had to deal with injuries Sunday, as Green Bay All-Pro receiver Jordy Nelson left the game in the first quarter with an apparent torn ACL. The injury is a huge blow to the Packers, and again raises the question as to the importance of so many preseason games. “It’s difficult to lose a guy like that over a meaningless game,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
  • For the second straight game, Steelers’ receivers struggle with dropped passes. Rookie Sammie Coates dropped two passes, Shakim Phillips had one and fullback Roosevelt Nix also had one.
  • Phillips made up for his drop with a nice 17 yard catch on a 3rd-and-9 that helped set up Tyler Murphy’s touchdown catch. Phillips had three catches Sunday for 47 yards and a touchdown.
  • If receiver Tyler Murphy wouldn’t have spent the first three weeks of camp playing quarterback, he might be on his way to making the 53-man roster. Murphy led the Steelers with four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown, and has gone from the fifth quarterback in camp to a possible practice squad receiver.
  • Rochester's Derek Moye is gone from Pittsburgh but not forgotten. At least not on KDKA. During Sunday's local telecast, a photo of Moye was shown with a graphic for WR Sammie Coates, the Steelers' third-round pick. The reason for the foul-up was obvious: Moye had worn No. 14 the previous two seasons.
  • LB L.J. Fort had appeared in 17 NFL games, three of them in the uniform of the Steelers' AFC North rivals, but the 25-year-old made his Pittsburgh debut memorable. It wasn't so much for the fourth-quarter sack, it's what he did afterward. In an apparent tribute to Joey Porter, the Steelers' fifth all-time sacks leader, Fort broke out the kick that his position coach used to celebrate with.
14 percent: Packers’ third down efficiency against the Steelers’ defense on Sunday.
1.6: Average yards per rush by Steelers’ running backs.
11-for-14, 100 yards: Ben Roethlisberger’s final passing statistics from Sunday.
At Buffalo Bills
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Saturday, 4 p.m. (KDKA)
Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 3-1 all-time against Buffalo in preseason play. The Steelers' lone loss to the Bills came in 2008 (24-21) at Toronto. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl that season. The Bills are 1-1 in preseason play, following Thursday night's 11-10 win at Cleveland.
Times Steelers Writer Chris Bradford contributed to this report

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