Ben Roethlisberger made the most of his brief preseason cameo, throwing for 114 yards and a touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers had little trouble with the Tennessee Titans in a 16-6 victory on Saturday.
New Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner didn't let Roethlisberger's lone scheduled exhibition appearance ahead of the Sept. 9 season opener at Cleveland go to waste. Roethlisberger completed 11 of 18 passes during his three drives, including a 32-yard rainbow to Justin Hunter for a score late in the first quarter.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, meanwhile, struggled against Pittsburgh's starting defense. Mariota completed 5 of 8 passes for 43 yards while playing most of the first half. He missed a wide-open Corey Davis for what would have been a long touchdown on Tennessee's opening drive and his afternoon ended late in the second quarter when Steelers rookie safety Terrell Edmunds picked off a floater intended for Taywan Taylor.
The Titans didn't do much in the run game to take any of the pressure off Mariota. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis combined for 23 yards rushing on eight carries. Tennessee's lone touchdown came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to tight end Anthony Firkser in the fourth quarter.
BACKING UP BELL
While All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell remains away from the team while waiting to sign his franchise tender, James Conner and rookie Jaylen Samuels impressed against the Titans. Conner ran 10 times for just 18 yards but also caught six passes for 52 yards, a portion of his game that has not been a strong suit.
Samuels, a fifth-round pick trying to earn a roster spot, was a workhorse in the second half. He ran 11 times for 41 yards and caught four passes for another 36.
The Steelers signed inside linebacker Vince Williams to a new four-year deal on Thursday just hours after inking Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell to a new five-year contract. Both showed why they're worth the money. Williams sacked Mariota for a 7-yard loss in the second quarter while Boswell converted all three of his field-goal attempts.
The Steelers remain in search of a punt returner. Pittsburgh gave second-year safety Cam Sutton a shot in the first half. He ended up fumbling on his first return (though it was recovered by teammate Rosie Nix) and making a fair catch on another. Rookie wide receiver Quadree Henderson, an All-American as a return specialist at Pitt, returned two punts for 14 yards.
Landry Jones appears set as the primary backup behind Roethlisberger. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 44 yards and a pick. Rookie Mason Rudolph hit on 7 of 11 passes for 65 yards. Second-year quarterback Josh Dobbs did not play.
Titans rookie linebacker Harold Landry, in the midst of an impressive first camp after being taken in the second round of the draft, left with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.
Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver James Washington left in the second half with an abdominal injury.
PLAYING IT SAFE
Though the third week is typically considered the closest thing to a dress rehearsal in advance of the regular season, the starting lineups were patchwork at best thanks to injuries and other concerns.
The Steelers played without All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was held out after being limited recently with an undisclosed injury. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Morgan Burnett also did not play because of injuries.
The Titans remain without Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker, who is out after getting hurt during a joint practice with Tampa Bay. Linebacker Brian Orakpo (shoulder) also remained out.
Titans: Finish up the preseason when they host Minnesota on Thursday.
Steelers: Play their annual exhibition finale against Carolina on Thursday when the Panthers visit Heinz Field.