By Teresa Varley
The Steelers improved their preseason record to 2-1, defeating the Buffalo Bills 17-0 at Heinz Field.
The starters played the first half and looked sharp on both sides of the ball. Ben Roethlisberger completed 15 of 19 passes for 168 yards. Hines Ward was his main go-to guy, pulling in five receptions for 74 yards. Rashard Mendenhall had 16 carries for 48 yards and scored on a four-yard run.
Linebacker James Farrior had an impressive outing, returning an interception 22 yards for a touchdown while adding a sack and a forced fumble.
"I think we did pretty good," said Farrior. "There are some things that we can improve on. We can improve on our blitz timing and a couple things."
Mendenhall got the call right out of the gate gaining a combined seven yards on his first two carries of the game. Roethlisberger then went to the air, hitting Mewelde Moore for eight-yards before going deep to Ward for a 23-yard gain to the Bills 33-yard line. Mendenhall was stopped for no gain on the next play and then broke off right tackle for 12-yards to the Bills 21-yard line. Mendenhall was hit in the backfield on the next play by Kyle Williams, forcing him to fumble and Bills linebacker Keith Ellison recovered at the 25-yard line.
The Steelers avoided allowing the early mistake to cause any damage as the defense stepped up, not allowing the Bills to go anywhere and forcing them to go three-and-out. With the ball back in their hands, the Steelers offense didn't have much more luck. Mendenhall was stopped for no gain on consecutive carries, and tight end Heath Miller came up two yards shy of a first down on an eight-yard reception.
Marshawn Lynch got the Bills going with a 12-yard carry on their next drive and Trent Edwards had a six-yard completion to Derek Schourman. That would be all the Bills would get as another defensive stop forced a punt.
Things got off to an auspicious start on the Steelers next drive when Roethlisberger fumbled the snap, recovering it for a five-yard loss. The tide turned fast though. Mendenhall burst free for a 13-yard gain and Roethlisberger hit Moore for 10-yards. Limas Sweed made a leaping catch for an 11-yard gain to the Bills 34-yard line to keep the chains moving.
Roethlisberger went back to Ward for 16 yards to the Bills 18-yard line. A completion to Mendenhall and a three-yard carry by the running back gave the Steelers third-and-four at the Bills 12-yard line. Roethlisberger was sacked for a four-yard loss on the next play, bringing on kicker Piotr Czech who hit a 34-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
The momentum continued to go in the Steelers favor on the next drive. Edwards looked for Josh Reed, but James Farrior honed in and intercepted the ball, returning it 22-yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 10-0.
The defense continued to shut down the Bills, forcing a three-and-out on their next possession.
On the ensuing drive Roethlisberger was unable to connect deep to rookie Mike Wallace and a false start on the next play had them facing second-and-15. Ward pulled in an eight-yard reception and Sweed added a six-yard catch, coming up one-yard shy of the first down. The Steelers tried to pull the Bills offside on fourth down, but had to punt instead.
Another defensive stop allowed the Steelers starting offense to go back to work one last time. Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall for 13 yards and Sweed came up with a nice 16-yard grab. Ward kept it going with a 19-yard reception over the middle, holding on to the ball in traffic. Roethlisberger had to scramble on the next play, making a lot of nothing when he lobbed the ball to Miller for 18 yards to the 15-yard line. It was back to the ground to cap the drive when Mendenhall took it in for a four-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 17-0 at halftime.
The Steelers starting defense saw action on the first series of the second half, but after that there were wholesale changes on both sides of the ball.
Justin Vincent got the call in the backfield and started off with a three-yard carry, followed up by a four-yard gain. Charlie Batch hit Brandon Williams for nine yards and then found Dezmond Sherrod for 21 yards. Shaun McDonald pulled in a nine-yard grab for a first down at the Bills 19-yard line. The offense stumbled after that, with Vincent getting knocked for a four-yard loss. Czech was called upon for a 40-yard field goal, which went wide right.
Ryan Fitzpatrick came in at quarterback for the Bills and completed his first pass attempt to Justin Jenkins for 17 yards. After a one-yard gain by Xavier Omon, Fitzpatrick hit Parrish for eight yards. On third-and-one Omon was stopped for no gain, forcing a punt.
Batch continued with his hot hand, hitting McDonald nine yards and for Williams for another nine-yard gain. One first-and-20 Batch connected with Isaac Redman, who broke loose for a 19-yard gain to the Steelers 45-yard line. On second-and-one, Redman added a five-yard carry to keep the drive rolling. After two short carries by Redman, Batch wasn't able to convert deep with Williams, forcing a punt.
After exchanging possessions, the Bills had a chance to get on the board. Rian Lindell's 33-yard field goal with 2:48 to play in the game was blocked by rookie Joe Burnett to secure the shutout.