Roethlisberger, a surprise starter because of his right thumb
injury, threw for a touchdown on the Steelers' opening drive while
running a version of the no-huddle. After that, the offense
basically shut down for the rest of the game.
Just as in a 21-13 loss to Arizona last weekend, the Steelers'
execution was spotty, with mistakes, incorrect pass routes and
turnovers. They had a fumble and an interception in their final two
possessions of the first half.
"It was their first game back after winning the Super Bowl and,
after that first drive, we just said we had to weather the storm,"
said cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, who had a sack and a forced
fumble. "We knew it would be a hostile crowd, but we wanted to go
out and see how we stand against the Super Bowl champions."
So far, the Steelers are playing much like they were a year ago,
when their starters didn't score a touchdown on offense in the
preseason before going on to win the franchise's first Super Bowl
in 26 years. So much for the importance of exhibition play;
Roethlisberger had thrown only one other preseason TD pass in three
years before doing so Saturday.
"I think we got in a fast tempo while we were out there, but we
didn't run the ball much," Steelers fullback Dan Kreider said.
"We didn't mix the run and the pass like we usually do most games
because we weren't out there that long."
Roethlisberger was listed as questionable after spraining a
right thumb ligament in practice Wednesday. But he got the offense
into the end zone so quickly, throwing a 16-yard scoring pass to
Cedrick Wilson with less than 5 minutes gone, he was pulled after
only six plays.
"The thumb feels pretty good," Roethlisberger said. "It was
one of those things where we said let's go out there and warm up
and see how we feel. It felt good out there."
In two games, Roethlisberger is 6-of-8 for 59 yards and has
shown no effects of the June 12 motorcycle accident that left him
with a broken jaw, nose and a concussion, among other injuries.
"They came out with a sort of a no-huddle trying to get us
rattled," Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris said. "We came out
kind of flat defensively, but once we settled down and got into the
speed of the game, we got pressure on the quarterback."
Both starting quarterbacks had no problems moving their
offenses, with Johnson going 9-of-11 for 71 yards while throwing a
12-yard scoring pass to tight end Jermaine Wiggins on Minnesota's
first possession after the Steelers' touchdown.
But it was Jackson, the second-round draft pick from Alabama
State, who got the Vikings offense moving again in limited playing
time -- just as he did during a relatively brief but effective
appearance during a 16-13 loss Monday to Oakland.
He didn't have to scramble for yardage as he did while running
for 36 yards against the Raiders, but was more accurate as a
thrower by completing 9 of 11 passes for 80 yards. His 6-yard
touchdown pass to Jason Carter early in the third quarter put the
Vikings up 17-7 and finished off a 56-yard drive in which the
rookie was 5-of-5 for 54 yards. He was 7-of-13 overall for 60 yards
against the Raiders.
"This is what have to do as a team every week," wide receiver
Troy Williamson said. "We've got two good quarterbacks and one
who's still learning what to do."
The big play on the Jackson-led drive was a 26-yard completion
over the middle to Ryan Hoag on a second-and-17 play after Jackson
was sacked on first down. Jackson played much better than Mike McMahon, who was expected to be Johnson's backup but was pulled
after completing only 1 of 7 passes for 42 yards and throwing an
Steelers first-round draft pick Santonio Holmes also stood out,
though mostly for the wrong reasons. After Holmes apparently ran
the wrong pass route on a Batch-thrown interception after the
Steelers had driven to the Vikings' 27 in the second quarter,
players and coaches alike -- led by Roethlisberger -- gathered around
to show him what he did wrong.
"We weren't on the same page and you saw the end result,"
Batch said. "We played in spurts on offense and defense and we've
got to put it all together."
Later, Holmes was certain he made a catch along the Steelers
sideline, but was ruled to be juggling the ball. Holmes seemed
surprised at the call, and coach Bill Cowher challenged it, but it
Losing their first two preseason games is nothing new for the
Steelers, who also did it in 2002 and 2003.