Steelers dominate Saints, 20-7

CANTON, Ohio – The first dress rehearsal of the Mike Tomlin era for the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't have gone much better.

The first-team offense and defense looked strong, while the Steelers made it out of the game with no major injuries and a 20-7 dominating victory here at Fawcett Stadium over the New Orleans Saints before a crowd of 22,302.

The Steelers rolled up a 305 to 56 advantage in total yards in the first half and rode that to a 17-0 lead as they opened their first preseason under Tomlin with a victory.

The yardage evened out slightly in the second half, but the Steelers still finished with a 433 to 214 advantage – including 173 yards rushing.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp in the opening series, the only one in which he played. His first pass, a play-action completion for 55 yards to Cedrick Wilson, was right on the money.

"It's hard to find a rhythm so early," said Roethlisberger, who completed two-of-three passes for 73 yards. "The second play of the game was designed for him and pretty much only him so it was open and I threw it deep to him. The next one to Ced I was just trying to find the open guy."

The next one to Wilson was on a third-and-nine play and went for an 18-yard completion on a slant, setting up Najeh Davenport's four-yard touchdown run that capped off the Steelers' opening drive.

That was it for Roethlisberger, whom Tomlin wanted to get in and out of the game quickly.

Roethlisberger wasn't the only offensive starter who played just the first series. Wide receiver Hines Ward, left guard Alan Faneca and left tackle Marvel Smith also left after the Steelers' opening offensive series. Ward was replaced by Nate Washington, while right tackle Max Starks slid to left tackle and Willie Colon entered in his spot for Smith. Chris Kemoeatu replaced Faneca.

The Steelers' first-team defense was nearly as impressive, limiting New Orleans to one first down and 14 yards in two offensive series before the substitutions began.

"They are a great offense so we knew it would be a good challenge for us," said linebacker Larry Foote. "We're pumped up. They put some points up against us last year (in the regular season) and any time you hold that first-team offense scoreless, you did a pretty good job."

The Steelers' backups had nearly as easy a time. Third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes – who had hauled in a 41-yard catch earlier in the drive – to put the Steelers ahead 14-0 with 8:54 left in the first half.

A 56-yard run by Carey Davis then set up a 28-yard field goal by Reed with 5:06 left in the second quarter for a 17-0 lead.

New Orleans, one of the NFL's surprise teams a year ago when the Saints advanced to the NFC Championship, didn't get on the board until the third quarter when its third-stringers got on the board against the Steelers' third-team, scoring on the opening possession of the second half.

Jason Fife finished off the 16-play drive by tossing a 1-yard TD pass to fullback Kevin Dudley.

The Steelers answered with a 13-play drive of their own, one that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Reed that gave Pittsburgh a 20-7 lead on the final play of the third quarter.


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