Roethlisberger' big half enough for Steelers vs. Eagles

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger liked almost nothing about his one half of play. The 247 yards passing, the three consecutive scoring drives, the big shift in momentum didn't impress him at all.

Roethlisberger, effective for only one drive previously in this preseason, had a big half statistically even though he was disappointed by it and the Pittsburgh Steelers shook off numerous mistakes to defeat the cross-state Philadelphia Eagles 27-13 Sunday night.

Roethlisberger didn't pass for a score, but spread the ball among seven receivers and six caught at least one of 18 yards or longer. Running back Najeh Davenport had two long receptions totaling 58 yards on screen passes that fooled the Eagles and tight end Heath Miller, often absent in the offense in the past, had two for 50 yards.

Still, Roethlisberger wasn't pleased.

"No, I'm not real happy," he said. "We missed a couple of things, some things could have been better, but I told some of those guys I'll get better and I'll be sure to hit them."

Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker, limited to four carries before now because of a sore knee that sidelined him for two weeks of training camp, ran 18 yards for a score following Roethlisberger's 22-yard completion to Santonio Holmes during a 13-point second quarter for Pittsburgh. Parker also caught three passes for 40 yards.

It could have been a lot better for the Steelers, too, even during their best preseason performance since Roethlisberger drove them 80 yards in six plays to score on their opening drive Aug. 5 during a 20-7 win over New Orleans.

Roethlisberger hadn't led a TD drive in seven series since then and, on his opening series Sunday, was intercepted when he flung the ball out of desperation trying to avoid a sack and threw it directly into Trent Cole's hands. Eagles defenders dropped two more passes from Roethlisberger later in the half.

Then, on Pittsburgh's next possession, rookie Dan Sepulveda shanked a punt that traveled only 14 yards to the Steelers' 20. But Donovan McNabb threw consecutive incompletions on second and third down and the Eagles settled for a David Akers' 22-yard field goal.

"It was ugly early on, and a couple of turnovers put our defense in some bad situations," Miller said. "They only got three points, and it seemed like the Eagles were playing on the high side of the field the first quarter."

The Steelers, 3-1 in the preseason, turned the ball over yet again the next time they had the ball, when Parker ran standing up into a crowded middle of the line of scrimmage on second-and-goal from the 1 and Quintin Mikell recovered the fumble forced by Takeo Spikes. But Roethlisberger finally got going after that by leading Pittsburgh scores on three consecutive possessions to end the half.

Jeff Reed kicked two field goals, of 37 and 40 yards, to make it 13-3 at halftime. The Steelers felt it could have been 30-3.

"Willie fumbled that ball on the goal line, and we get that ball and score, the game's probably a whole different outcome," Hines Ward said.

Many starters for both teams played most or all the first half, something that won't happen when each team finishes up exhibition play Thursday night. Eagles coach Andy Reid said his starters won't play at all against the Jets.

"We know we have a lot to work to do," the Eagles' Darren Howard said.

For the Steelers, a game at Carolina in which their regulars will be on the field only a series or two will end a very long preseason under new coach Mike Tomlin that included five games and lasted seven weeks.

"We're close, but we've got a couple of weeks until it really starts to matter and it's close enough that we can keep moving forward," Roethlisberger said.

McNabb, so efficient the week before in driving the Eagles' starters to 10 points on four possessions in a 27-10 victory over Carolina, was lifted before halftime after going 5-of-11 for 60 yards and being sacked twice. Correll Buckhalter ran for 43 yards on 10 carries.

"These two games were critical for us, we wanted to get that timing down," McNabb said. "There were some good things we did but there's work that needs to be done."

Picking up the blitz may be one of them as the Eagles missed injured Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews, who is out with an ankle injury.

"I think they've got a few problems picking up the pressure we bring, and we get after them pretty good. He definitely can sense it [the blitz] coming and he's got to get it out of there, or he's going to get sacked," the Steelers' Casey Hampton said of McNabb. "If you let him sit back there, he'll pick you apart. The whole thing is to get him antsy and try to bring as much pressure as possible."

Pittsburgh pushed the lead to 20-6 when Charlie Batch's 30-yard completion to Nate Washington led to Kevan Barlow's 1-yard TD run in the third period. The Eagles, 1-2 in the preseason, didn't get into the end zone until rookie Kevin Kolb, McNabb's backup, hit Lee Vickers on a 4-yard scoring pass with about four minutes remaining in the game. The Steelers' Jovon Johnson scored on a 77-yard return of a fumble by Kevin Curtis in the final two minutes.

Game notes
Holmes played despite injuring a hamstring in practice Friday. ... The teams played in the preseason for the fifth consecutive year. The Steelers have won three of the five. ... Eagles S Sean Considine left in the first half with a concussion. ... Four of Roethlisberger's completions went for 20 yards or longer.


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