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Steelers' Roethlisberger dismantles Bills in preseason tune-up

| Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, 10:26 p.m.
The Steelers' Ramon Foster blocks for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after David DeCastro was carted off the field in the first quarter against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium Aug. 25, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Lawrence Timmons causes the Bills' C.J. Spiller in the second quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium Aug. 25, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Ben Roethlisberger needed only 11 plays and 1 minute, 33 seconds of clock time to turn a mostly bad night good for the Steelers in their starters' only lengthy audition of the preseason.

Pushed around by the Bills' defensive line of many Williamses for most of a downer of a first half, and with rookie right guard David DeCastro out with a potentially serious injury, the Steelers were backed up to their own 2-yard-line with 1:46 left before halftime of a 7-7 tie.

Given how Mario Williams and Kyle Williams seemed to be collapsing the Steelers' offensive line on every other play — the Steelers had only six first downs and 32 yards rushing to that point — this didn't look good. At all.

Then, one drive changed not only this game, but the Steelers' perspective on the entire preseason.

“It's all about how you respond to adversity,” receiver Antonio Brown said after the Steelers surged back behind his two touchdown catches to win, 38-7, turning all three turnovers into scores. “I think we did a good job rallying.”

Roethlisberger, even when the games don't count, routinely excels when time is short and the yardage is long. Give him even a sliver of clock time, and it might be enough. And this effort might be enough for the Steelers to feel confident about a preseason in which wide receiver Mike Wallace, deep pass completions and continuity have been missing.

“It felt like a real game, it felt like a regular season game,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We started slow a little bit, and we needed a big play to get us going. We're right on track right now.”

It started when Roethlisberger hit Jonathan Dwyer, on a wheel route, for 33 yards along the Steelers sideline on a drive-saving third-and-9 from the 3 — one play after getting agitated at an illegal substitution penalty. He followed by finding Jerricho Cotchery on a slant for 16, Dwyer in the flat for 7 yards, Cotchery for 12, Emmanuel Sanders for 12 and Heath Miller for 11, all in rapid-fire but rhythmic progression.

Roethlisberger scrambled himself for 5, then connected with Brown in the end zone for 6 yards and a touchdown.

“I just started calling my own plays,” Roethlisberger said. “We went no-huddle and up-tempo, and we were throwing the ball.”

Or something they hadn't done with much effectiveness with the starters on the field for a limited time against the Eagles and Colts.

“He's something special,” Brown said.

On the drive, Roethlisberger was 7 for 8 for 92 yards and also stayed clean after being sacked twice earlier in the half.

The down note was the possible season-ending right knee injury to DeCastro, which coach Mike Tomlin called “potentially severe. We'll see what the MRI says.”

Defensive end Brett Keisel was lifted in the first half with a mild high ankle sprain, but he said later he “was fine.”

DeCastro, the first-round draft pick who was ready to become only the fourth rookie offensive lineman to start a Steelers season opener in the Super Bowl era, went down in significant pain less than four minutes into the game.

The second half started as well for the Steelers as the first half ended. Brown added his third touchdown catch in two games, splitting two defenders on a 39-yarder from backup Byron Leftwich 58 seconds into the half.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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