Steelers starters fail to score in lackluster win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Back at LSU, coach Nick Saban's solution for
this type of problem would have been to pull one or two of his
highly recruited players and plug in a couple of others. In the
NFL, it's not quite that easy.

The Miami Dolphins lost five fumbles in the first half and seven
overall in a miserably played game, exhibition or not, and the
Pittsburgh Steelers had just enough offense to capitalize in a 17-3
victory Saturday night.

James Harrison, filling in for injured Pro Bowl linebacker Joey
Porter, scored on a 69-yard return of quarterback Gus Frerotte's
fumble in the first quarter for Pittsburgh's fourth return
touchdown in two preseason games. But the Steelers' only touchdown
on offense -- Ben Roethlisberger and the starters were shut out for
a second consecutive game -- was Verron Haynes' 1-yard run in the
third quarter set up by, of course, a Dolphins fumble.

"We had too many mistakes. Turnovers killed us," Frerotte
said. "We were trying to do some things and we missed some big
plays. We had stuff that didn't go our way. We just missed some
deep throws."

And missed and missed and ...

Frerotte had moved ahead of A.J. Feeley in the race to be the
opening day starter, but it was hard to tell as Miami lost nearly
as many fumbles as Frerotte had completed passes. Dolphins general
manager Randy Mueller supposedly talked to the agent for unsigned
quarterback Tim Couch last week, and the way Frerotte and Feeley
played couldn't have convinced Mueller and Saban the offense is in
good hands.

Especially on a night the Dolphins barely kept the ball in their
hands for more than a couple of plays without turning it over in
their third consecutive exhibition loss.

"We're really disappointed in the way we keep continually
shooting ourselves in the foot, offensively," Saban said. "We
stop ourselves time and time again, we drop balls, have penalties,
don't block the right guy at times. We really need to buy into
everybody being disciplined in what they're doing."

Maybe a 58-minute weather delay at the start caused by a violent
thunderstorm got both teams out of sync, but neither starting
offense produced any scoring in a first half that included eight
turnovers -- including two Steelers fumbles and a
Roethlisberger-thrown interception.

Frerotte wasn't entirely to blame, going 7-of-18 for 87 yards
and losing two fumbles, although several receivers dropped balls
that should have been caught. But he is 13-of-31 for 147 yards and
an interception in his last two games, including last weekend's
27-17 loss to the Jaguars, and he acknowledged that facing one of
the league's best defenses was a challenge.

"We had a lot of improvement from last week," said linebacker
James Farrior, whose hit on Frerotte led to Harrison's fumble
return score. "We had a lot of guys running around and we had a
good amount of turnovers."

Feeley's numbers looked much better than Frerotte's, 16 of 20
for 95 yards, but he completed mostly short, safe throws to his
receivers that didn't produce much yardage after the catch.
Frerotte went downfield on nearly every throw, and got much of his
yardage on a 42-yard completion to Wes Welker.

Just as in Monday night's 38-31 win over the Eagles, the
Steelers' starting offense didn't get much work. Roethlisberger was
6-of-11 for 51 yards and is 8-of-15 for 64 yards in two games, not
playing past the first quarter in either game even though coach
Bill Cowher planned to play his starters for the first half

Charlie Batch, the former Lions starter who has barely played
the last three seasons with Pittsburgh, played more than a half and
went 6-for-11 for 55 yards.

Steelers Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward played one series
after ending his holdout Monday and made a 3-yard catch on a third
down in which he needed four yards to keep a drive going.

"It's great to be back -- I missed it," Ward said. "It was
just day three for me, and we're getting better. Ben is making good
reads and we need to make some plays for him."
^Notes:@ Dolphins first-round draft pick Ronnie Brown, who also
ended his holdout on Monday, didn't get any carries. ... Steelers
RB Jerome Bettis was pulled after getting 11 yards on two carries.
... Saban grew up about 70 miles from Pittsburgh in northern West
Virginia. ... Jeff Reed missed a 28-yard field goal try in the
first quarter after Willie Parker's 37-yard run gave the Steelers a
first down at the 9. Reed later kicked a 26-yarder. ... The rain
stopped before kickoff, and the field did not appear to be overly