The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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August 25, 2013

Roethlisberger sharp, Steelers not in third straight preseason loss

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Kansas City’s Alex Smith fought to a first-half draw and the Chiefs beat the Steelers 26-20 in overtime on Saturday night.

Roethlisberger was 13 of 19 for 166 yards and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Dwyer as the Steelers shook off two lethargic performances with easily their best 30 minutes of the preseason.

Smith struggled early but led Kansas City to a pair of scoring drives late in the first half and finished 17 of 24 for 158 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles ran seven times for 10 yards in his first game after spraining his right foot earlier this month.

Kansas City won it on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel to Rico Richardson on the first possession of overtime.

Following a pair of largely lifeless efforts, Roethlisberger stressed it was hardly time to panic. In the closest thing to the real thing the NFL provides in August, the Steelers responded with a decidedly more urgent tone against the Chiefs.

Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 49-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second offensive play, leading to a field goal. The Steelers followed it up with their first offensive touchdown since the 2012 regular season finale against Cleveland. Taking over at the Kansas City 21 after the Chiefs failed to convert a 4-and-1, Roethlisberger turned a broken play into six points when he scrambled around long enough to find Dwyer wide open in the flat. The running back trotted into the end zone to give the Steelers a 10-0.

Kansas City, which like Pittsburgh sleepwalked through the first half of the exhibition schedule, appeared headed to another dismal effort until Smith found a rhythm late in the half. The former No. 1 draft pick, sent to Kansas City to revitalize his career, raced 38 yards to set up a field goal.

Smith didn’t need to use his legs during a fabulous drive to end the half. He completed 6 of 7 passes while moving Kansas city 72 yards, the only incompletion coming on a spike to stop the clock. Smith covered the final five yards with a perfect strike to Junior Hemingway to tie the game with just 18 seconds remaining before the break.

The two starters took the rest of the night off and probably won’t be seen again until their respective season openers.

In the final game before the first round of cuts, however, a couple of third-round picks made a compelling case they plan to stick around.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Markus Wheaton – projected as the team’s new deep threat after the departure of Mike Wallace – hauled in a 34-yard rainbow from backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski early in the third quarter.

Moments later, Kansas City’s Knile Davis provided a compelling case to return kicks after taking an “only in the preseason” shot when he fielded the ensuing kickoff a yard from the endline then raced 109 yards for a touchdown. The score continued a miserable trend for the Steelers, who have hardly been sharp on special teams under new coordinator Danny Smith.

Pittsburgh running back Felix Jones, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on Friday, saw extensive action with rookie Le’Veon Bell (foot), Isaac Redman (stinger), LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) all sidelined by injury. Jones returned two kickoffs for 51 yards and carried eight times for 29 yards.

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