Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger injured in loss to Seahawks
Because of an injury to Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to put their untested second-string quarterback on the field for the second half Sunday afternoon.
Trouble was, they had to keep putting their oft-tested first-string defense out there, too.
Mason Rudolph injected some life into the offense, but the defense continued to yield big plays, allowing touchdowns on three successive second-half drives that turned a three-point halftime lead into a 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field.
For the second year in a row, the Steelers are winless after two games. But for the first time since 2013, they will take an 0-2 record into their third game. Dating to last season, they have lost six of their past eight games.
“We understand the position we are in,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We understand the negativity that comes with it. We better absorb it, better get singularly focused and get better before our next opportunity. That is what we intend to do, but today it is painful, as it should be.”
On a day when the Steelers were hurt by a controversial pass-interference ruling that set up Seattle’s final touchdown, perhaps the greatest pain was felt in Roethlisberger’s right elbow. He clutched it twice after throwing passes in the second quarter and didn’t return after intermission. Rudolph relieved and threw two touchdown passes to Vance McDonald in the second half, twice pulling the Steelers within two points.
Tomlin didn’t know the severity of Roethlisberger’s injury, allowing only the quarterback was getting it “evaluated.”
Three other starters — safety Sean Davis, linebacker Vince Williams and running back James Conner — left with injuries.
“We were fully capable with the guys that were on the field,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t make enough plays. We didn’t play clean enough.”
The Seahawks never trailed after taking a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter on a drive that began when Steelers receiver Donte Moncrief couldn’t hold onto a pass, and Seattle intercepted. It was Moncrief’s fifth drop of the season and came on his only target Sunday.
Despite forcing two turnovers that led to touchdowns, the Steelers defense was responsible for two long touchdowns in the second half: Rashaad Penny scored on a 37-yard run aided by Anthony Chickillo’s missed tackle, and Russell Wilson threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf for a 28-19 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Wilson completed 29 of 35 attempts for 300 yards and three scores, and he helped the Seahawks run out the clock after the Steelers pulled within two points with 5 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
“Terrible,” safety Terrell Edmunds said about the Steelers predicament and not the pass interference call against him in the fourth quarter. “Nobody likes it. We’re all upset. We know the season is not over, though.”
For all of the changes the Steelers made to the defense in the offseason, the unit continues to give up chunks of yardage at inopportune times. One week after the New England Patriots scored 33 points and gained 465 yards, the Seahawks scored four touchdowns and had 426 yards, including 152 rushing.
“Did we do better?” asked defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, who had 2.5 sacks. “We lost the game, so I don’t think so.”
An offense held to a field goal in the opener amassed just 103 yards in the first half but took a 10-7 lead into the locker room thanks to a fumble return by Mark Barron that set up a 22-yard drive and Conner’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.
In the second half, Rudolph completed 12 of 19 attempts for 112 yards. His 8-yard touchdown pass to McDonald pulled the Steelers within 21-19 with 11:16 left, but his 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted.
On the next series, Wilson threw incomplete on a second-and-20 long pass to Tyler Lockett with Edmunds in coverage.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll took advantage of the new rule in which any pass can be reviewed for interference even it it isn’t called by officials. The no-call was overturned, giving the Seahawks a first down at the Steelers 35. They scored three plays later for a 28-19 lead.
“I disagreed with it,” said Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s Competition Committee and opponent of the rules change. “I don’t believe any of us have an understanding of what the standards are once those things go to replay.”
A fumble recovery by rookie Devin Bush set up Rudolph’s 3-yard touchdown pass to McDonald with 5:34 remaining.
The Steelers, however, never got the ball back. They will try to stop their slide at San Francisco, where they have won once since 1984.
“I’m not scared. I’m not nervous,” Tuitt said. “I know we’re going to do what we need to do to get back on track.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .