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Duck-and-chuck re-emerges up north

| Friday, Aug. 15, 2008

TORONTO -- Dragging two NFL franchises to Canada to play a preseason game made about as much sense as two guys wearing No. 64 fist-bumping on the same sideline prior to kickoff.

You don't see either event very often, but both occurred Thursday night.

The Steelers and Buffalo Bills had at one another in Rogers Centre, the facility formerly known as SkyDome.

And before they did, Steelers defensive lineman Jordan Reffett and Steelers offensive lineman Doug "Bronko" Legursky, both of whom sport No. 64, had their moment.

They also opened the retractable roof for pregame warm-ups, and then closed it again before kickoff.

You don't see that every day, either.

Oh, Canada!

Soon thereafter, things returned to normal.

That wasn't necessarily a good thing for the Steelers.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played longer than he had in the preseason opener, as anticipated, and he also got in more of a workout.

The offensive line saw to that.

Roethlisberger wasn't sacked, but he was flushed from the pocket on four of his first eight passing attempts over his first two series.

The other four attempts consisted of a three-step drop out of shotgun formation, a flanker screen, another three-step drop and a traditional screen.

In other words, when Roethlisberger really needed time early, he didn't get any.

A couple of plays were nonetheless made under such duress, but only a couple.

Roethlisberger eluded defensive end Chris Kelsay on the Steelers' first play of the game and found tight end Matt Spaeth for a 7-yard gain.

Roethlisberger escaped defensive end Aaron Schobel and turned potential trouble into a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Hines Ward.

And Roethlisberger was chased again by Schobel; this time the heat resulted in a tip-pick executed by Bills defensive backs Ko Simpson and Donte Whitner.

The fourth time Roethlisberger found himself polishing his improvisational skills, he threw the ball away.

The execution was flawless, but the timing could have been better, seeing as how it was third-and-10 from the Buffalo 45-yard line. It wasn't the ideal instance to give up on a play to live to fight another day, no matter how hard Roethlisberger has been working to add that to his routine.

By the Steelers' third series, the pocket was finally forming with regularity and Roethlisberger was finally able to throw darts, one for 24 yards to Ward and one that went for a 40-yard touchdown to wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

The Steelers have that modest success to build upon after what has to be classified as a backward step.

The offensive line had a relatively clean opening outing against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the exchange rate wasn't what the Steelers needed it to be this time, particularly when penalties against center Justin Hartwig (holding) and guard Chris Kemoeatu (false start) are considered.

Hartwig replaced Sean Mahan with the first group this time, but at first glance seemed more guilty by association than anything else.

The group as a whole is still a question mark, on either side of Niagara Falls.

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