Steelers have picture-perfect night in win over Titans | TribLIVE.com
Steelers/NFL

Steelers have picture-perfect night in win over Titans

Joe Rutter
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AP
Steelers defensive back Kam Kelly (top left) and outside linebacker Bud Dupree celebrate after Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked in the end zone for a safety in the first half.
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AP
Steelers running back James Conner looks for an opening against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of a preseason game Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Steelers receiver James Washington catches a 41-yard touchdown as he gets by Titans defensive back Kenneth Durden in the first half.
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of a preseason game Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.
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AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NBC’s High Sky camera angle was a distraction to the national television audience, but the view from the field Sunday night was picture perfect for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger directed a touchdown drive in his first appearance, Mason Rudolph uncorked a deep touchdown pass and the first-team defense was sturdy for the Steelers in an 18-6 preseason win against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium.

“It was good on a lot of fronts,” coach Mike Tomlin said.

Not for the viewers at home.

Fans took to social media to vent about the experimental camera angle NBC used for its showcase weekend telecast. And those braving rainy conditions inside the Titans home stadium watched the Steelers control play when starters and substitutes alike were on the field.

After sitting out the first two preseason games for the fourth consecutive year, Roethlisberger played three series and capped his final drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Roethlisberger completed 8 of 13 passes — two others were dropped — for 63 yards. Smith-Schuster had four catches for 37 yards. James Conner found running room and gained 41 yards on five carries. He also caught two passes for 15 yards.

While the starters were in the game, Donte Moncrief served as the No. 2 wide receiver, and Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers alternated series as the slot receiver.

“It was good to get Ben in a stadium and some others and see that group work together,” Tomlin said. “Although it wasn’t a complete body of work, we were able to get him some situational ball and watch him execute and do some things there. A good night in that regards.”

Rudolph was the first quarterback off the bench and immediately stated his case for being Roethlisberger’s backup by throwing a 41-yard touchdown pass to college teammate James Washington on his second snap.

Rudolph also threw an interception midway through the second quarter because of an apparent miscommunication with Washington.

“That’s on me,” Rudolph said. “That’s easily correctable.”

Rudolph completed 6 of 9 attempts for 75 yards. He said he didn’t read anything into being the first quarterback off the bench rather than Josh Dobbs, who backed up Roethlisberger last season.

“When I’m out there, I want to produce and play well and move the guys up and down the field,” Rudolph said. “That’s the stuff I read into, and I’ll read into the film a lot and try to make correctiongs and try to get better on a short week.”

Dobbs replaced Rudolph to open the second half and played the rest of the way, completing 4 of 9 passes for 79 yards and an interception.

“Dobbs has to take better care of the ball, particularly in situations we’ve got the ball in the red zone, and that’s points on the board,” Tomlin said.

Before members of the first-team defense began cycling out of the game, Stephon Tuitt had two sacks, including one in the end zone that produced a 2-0 lead for the Steelers early in the first quarter.

The Steelers also deployed a nickel subpackage in which safety Sean Davis played in the box, and Kameron Kelly lined up deep. Mike Hilton also subbed in as the slot corner in regular nickel situations. In the dime defense, Cam Sutton replaced Hilton, and Kelly remained on the field.

The only points the Steelers starters yielded came on Ryan Succop’s 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Titans generated two first downs and 58 yards over their first six drives.

Vince Williams and Cam Heyward added sacks. Heyward’s came inside the two-minute warning to end another Titans drive, and the Steelers entered halftime with a 15-3 lead.

Linebacker Tuzar Skipper continued to state his case for making the 53-man roster with a second-half sack, his third of the preseason. He finished with four tackles.

Davis limped off the field late in the first half and was taken inside the medical tent, and Bud Dupree suffered an apparent hand injury.

The defense made its first big play with less than six minutes gone in the first quarter.

Punter Jordan Berry, making a case to retain his job, dropped a 49-yard punt on the Titans 4 where it was downed. After Terrell Edmunds broke up a pass over the middle on first down, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped back again.

Tuitt met little resistance as he pushed through guard Roger Safford and dropped Mariota in the end zone for a 2-0 lead.

After the free kick was returned to the Steelers 42, Roethlisberger returned for his third and final drive and took the offense down the field. He moved the Steelers 58 yards in nine plays, finishing it off by hitting Smith-Schuster with a 17-yard touchdown pass. With the Titans blitzing, Smith-Schuster got in front of cornerback LeShaun Sims and Roethlisberger hit him in stride as the receiver crossed into the middle of the end zone.

“JuJu happened to get his eyes around, and I threw it early and trusted he was going to be in the right spot,” Roethlisberger said. “The line picked it up. They brought one more than we could block, but they kept them away.”

The 2-point try was unsuccessful, with Jaylen Samuels tripping after catching a screen pass, and the score remained 8-0.

Rudolph replaced Roethlisberger with 2:37 left in the quarter. Center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro also took a seat along with Conner and Smith-Schuster.

After Rudolph relieved, he placed a perfectly thrown ball into the hands of Washington at the goal line. Washington beat Kenneth Durden in single coverage and came down with the 41-yard touchdown catch. Chris Boswell’s extra point made it 15-0.

Boswell kicked in the first half and didn’t get a field-goal try. Matthew Wright made a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter for an 18-3 lead.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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