When it rains, it pours and it did just that when the Steelers opened the preseason with a 23-7 win over Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. A heavy storm, complete with thunder and lightning, hit with 1:31 to play in the first half. After a delay of one hour and 13 minutes, play did resume with them finishing out the second quarter and then going directly into second half play.
The Steelers starting defense didn't see much time on the field, but accomplished what they set out to do.
"We just wanted to get a feel of going against another team," said linebacker James Farrior. "We've been practicing against each other for the past two weeks. It just feels good to get out here with our home crowd, getting that feeling of being home and getting the season started. It's nice to hit somebody in a different color uniform."
The starters were on the field for the first two series of the game, with safety Ryan Clark collecting an interception.
"It's good to get out there and play against somebody else to see what you've learned in camp and apply it to a real life game situation," said Clark. "We didn't get to play a lot, but we got to run some different coverages, some things that we've been working on. It went well."
Byron Leftwich got the start at quarterback and completed his first pass to Mike Wallace for 11 yards. Early on though you could tell it was the preseason, as Rashard Mendenhall had the ball knocked loose after advancing it to the 45-yard line, with Flozell Adams recovering at the 38-yard line.
On the next series Leftwich was knocked for an eight-yard loss on a sack and Mewelde Moore fumbled, but came up with the recovery. The Steelers were forced to punt after Leftwich was pressured, forcing an incomplete pass.
The starting defense looked strong, with Clark shutting down the Lions on their second series when he intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford at the 17-yard line.
The offense wasn't able to capitalize, though, settling for a 35-yard Jeff Reed field goal on a four-play drive that netted zero yards to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
"Any time you fumble the ball or give the quarterback sacks and just miss assignments, for us, that's what we can't do," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We can't have the Steelers beating the Steelers, so that's something we got to work on during training camp and get better, and we will."
The Steelers made wholesale substitutions on defense and the Lions too advantage, moving the ball down the field where Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson for a two-yard touchdown and 7-3 lead.
Isaac Redman made a case for himself on the next series with an eight-yard run up the middle and a 13-yard reception. Redman then took it off right tackle, bouncing off defenders for a 31-yard gain. The Steelers went to Reed again then to cap the series with a 37-yard field goal.
With 5:10 to go in the first half rain started to fall with it quickly turning into a heavy downpour. Dennis Dixon stepped in at quarterback and had his hands full as the weather continued to turn worse. He came up big though with a 51-yard completion to Arnaz Battle to the Lions 10-yard line. Dixon kept the ball for what appeared to be a five-yard touchdown, but he was ruled down at the half-yard line. On the next play Redman went off left guard for a one-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 13-6 lead.
Before the Lions could start their ensuing drive the game was stopped because of lightning with 1:31 to play as players quickly left the field and fans ran for cover.
Byron Leftwich finished the night completing six of 10 passes for 43 yards.
Rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown made his presence known in the fourth quarter when he caught a pass from Dixon and took off running for a 68-yard touchdown.
Aaron Smith returned to the field for the first time after being placed on injured reserve prior to week six last season.
"It was good to get out there and knock some dust off," said Smith. "It was nice hitting somebody* *other than my teammates."
Before the game Steelers defensive coordinator and former Detroit Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau was honored for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steelers and Lions players lined up from sideline to sideline to show their appreciation of LeBeau, who got a huge hand from the Heinz Field faithful.
As a part of Youth Football Month in the NFL the Steelers honored local youth football players during pregame.