(ALLEN PARK) -- The Detroit Lions used the tough combination of great special teams play and tough defense to make new head coach Steve Mariucci a winner in his first ever contest as a Lions.
That was an experience for me, said head coach Steve Mariucci. "It was fun being at Ford Field fun being on the sidelines with this bunch, being in the lockeroom and having my family down for this game, and coming out with a win. There are some things that Im pleased with and some things we have to improve on. I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are a very good team, well coached. I like the way we matched up, went up early."
Detroit knocked off playoff contender Pittsburgh in a well played 26-13 victory.
But Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher felt his team didn't play as well as he would like. We didnt play very well I think thats the best way of stating it," said Cowher. "We were very sluggish on offense and our defense. The scrambling quarterback (Mike McMahon) went out against our second unit in the second half and made some plays. The first unit made some plays at the end of the first half. We have got a ways to go and we recognize that.
The Lions defense, ready to reclaim the "silver rush" moniker set the tone
early, sending Pittsburgh to a three-and-out including a stuff of Jerome Bettis by Barrett
Green and Robert Porcher sack of Steelers starter Tommy Maddox.
After an exchange of possessions, Detroit defense turned up the heat and the score when Barrett Green burst thorugh the line of scrimagge on 3rd-and-8 and sacked Maddox in the end zone for a safety to give Detroit a 2-0 lead.
We just wanted to come out and set a good tempo," said Green. "Defense was up first and we came out aggressive and the coaches gave us some aggressive calls and we made the most of it. Cowher agreed that the play in the trenches was the differences today.
We didnt play well up front on both sides of the ball,"Cowher said. I thought that we did not put much pressure on them with our rush. Tommy was under a lot of duress, he was throttled. We didnt really get much from running the football so I thought they beat us at the line of scrimmage.
"Certainly, our defense played well early and kept (last seasons) fifth-ranked offense out of the endzone, said Lions coach Mariucci, "that was encouraging."
Pittsburgh answered with a 14 play drive in the second quarter, culminating in a Jeff Reed 25-yard field goal to take the lead at a very baseball like 3-2.
While the Lions defensive continued to stifle the Steelers offense, Detroit couldn't get anything going offensively themselves. Old friend Charlie Batch substituting for Maddox took Pittsburgh on a 12-play drive that neetted another field goal by Reed from 43 to give Pittsburgh a 6-2 lead
It was all Detroit from that point forward. With Detroit getting the ball just after the two minute warning, Quarterback Joey Harrington operating from the no-huddle began moving the Lions down the field, hitting Bill Schroeder for 11 and James Stewart for 13 more yielding back-to-back first downs.
Harrington found Scotty Anderson from 13 yards out to regain the lead for Detroit at 9-6 at the half. "I liked our two-minute drive right at the end of the half," said Mariucci.
Lions quarterback Joey Harrington said he was able to take advantage of a change in Pittsburgh's defense.
The defense was playing soft, we had some stuff underneath for a big one. There were a few passes where I didnt have my feet. I missed a few guys today. We had a few guys miss the routes, they werent real sure on their reads. We need to make those things come together. With 11 seconds left I really had time to check it down and one of those balls I just threw up. I had a good view of it. The corner held up a bit and allowed Scotty to get by. He went up and made a great catch.
In the second half, two players who had nearly played themselves into the doghouse in
camp thus far, turned in sparkling performances. Mike McMahon and Luke Staley. Staley
ended the day as the team's leading rusher with 30 yards on seven carries including an 11
yard burst that set the tone for Detroit's second score.
I have to go out there everyday and Im trying to give this team an opportunity and just go out there and present myself in a way the coaches can take a look at me," said Staley. Hopefully they will see something that can help this team.
After a fourteen play drive stalled at the Pittsburgh 25-yard line, Detroit decided to go for it and McMahon hit undrafted tight end Casey Fitzsimmons for 20 yards in front of Pittsburgh's rookie first round pick Troy Polamalu to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, McMahon then took it on a bootleg to give Detroit a 16-6 lead. Detroit's defense got back into the act when on Pittsburgh's next possession, third string QB Brian St. Pierre was sacked by reserve linebacker James Davis who forced the fumble and defensive tackle Cory Redding recovered the ball just before it passed the end line giving Detroit's defense nine points on the evening and the Lions an insurrmountable 23-6 lead.
It felt good today," said Davis. "Coach has prepared us all week to get on the field and just make plays. I was just thinking to myself that I had to go out there have fun and I could make some plays.
"We came out in the second-half and put a 17-play drive together and we put it into the endzone, said Mariucci, "that was encouraging. Our defense got a safety and a touchdown and you have got to have some of that.
But with Detroit pinned in their own end and going three and out, St. Pierre atoned from his mistakes by leading Pittsburgh on a quick five play drive with Derrick Brown taking it in on a 38-yard run to cut Detroit's lead to 23-13.
A field goal by reserve kicker Mike Jensen gave Detroit the final margin of victory at 26-13.
Mariucci said that while the win was welcome, Detroit is by no means satisfied with where it is right now. We cannot be satisfied with a preseason win. What matters is that we improve from here and correct mistakes. The precision part of the game I wasnt happy with. The protection wasnt bad, I thought we did that pretty well but we need to be sharp in the passing game. The precision and accuracy, making the plays and moving the sticks, we didnt do that well enough late in the first quarter and later in the second.
What can the Lions do to improve upon a 1-0 preseason start?
"We certainly have a lot of work on the punt and kicking. We played a lot of players, almost everyone got in. We dont do a lot of live tackling and that is certainly an area we will be working on all the way around wrapping them up and taking them down. We hope to get the 17 players who couldnt play back next week. I thought the communication from the press box to the sidelines to the field was satisfactory. It was a good start, but we have light-years to go and I told them that. They are ready to work. We got some good evaluations on many players, especially some of the young guys. (They got) a lot of snaps.