Reed the only kick in offense
Kicker converts four field goals, the final one from 47 yards with :04 left, as Roethlisberger and company sputter in win vs. Minnesota
Sunday, August 24, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana

Despite the efforts of Lawrence Timmons, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson soars over the pile to score from 1 yard out in the second quarter last night in the Metrodome.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Steelers played indoors under a fabric roof made of Teflon, yet their first-team offense looked as if it were playing beneath a wet blanket.

It took prized rookie Rashard Mendenhall to breathe some kind of life into an otherwise lifeless Steelers offense last night, but even that was spoiled when he lost two fumbles.

Yet the Steelers defense played its best game, and backup quarterback Byron Leftwich led a late drive that ended with Jeff Reed's fourth field goal, from 47 yards with four seconds left, to lift the Steelers to a 12-10 victory at the Metrodome.

Mendenhall had runs of 21, 18 and 16 yards in the second half and had 79 yards on 15 carries. But one of his fumbles led to the only touchdown of the game, and the other came on a first-down run after he reached the Vikings' 25 late in the fourth quarter. He also lost a previous fumble this preseason.

"It's something we were concerned about, something we made him aware of,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It's part of being a ball-totter in the National Football League. It's a little different and he sensed that. He has the skill set to be successful but the prerequisite is ball security and he has to shore up that element of his game."

The Steelers' first teams played their most extensive stretch in their third preseason game against the Vikings, and their No. 1 offense got bogged down against the NFL's No. 1 defense against the rush last season.

With both teams using first stringers throughout the first half, the Steelers' defense put on a better show, but they were undershadowed by an offense that produced just 76 yards on seven series.

Reed kicked field goals of 35, 43 and 37 yards before his winner. Adrian Peterson ran for a 1-yard touchdown and Ryan Longwell added a 37-yard field goal for the Vikings.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, near perfect in two brief appearances before last night, completed 10 of 17 passes in the first half for 65 yards and was sacked twice. The running game did little as well with Willie Parker running 10 times for 18 of the Steelers' 26 yards on the ground for the first unit.

Mendenhall covered nearly that much on one sweet 21-yard run in the third quarter, and followed later in that quarter with an 18-yarder against Minnesota's backups.

It was a bittersweet night for the rookie back.

"This league isn't easy,'' Mendenhall said. "It definitely feels good to contribute, that's what they brought me in for and I want to do that."

As to what happened on the two fumbles, Mendenhall said, "I'm not real sure, it just came out and hit the ground. It never should have happened."

Roethlisberger never threw a deep pass in his full half of work. The first deep pass was not delivered until Leftwich dropped back from the 44 and pitched one incomplete to Willie Reid at the goal line.

Leftwich played all of the second half as the Steelers seemed to want to get him ready for the regular season. He completed 16 of 23 for 129 yards, including his final one of 11 yards to Dallas Baker that set up Reed for the winning kick.

Tomlin said he stuck with Leftwich the entire second half because, "We thought at the time the situations were invaluable ... part of his growth and development as a Steeler."

The Steelers' first offense was sluggish in its first half of play with Roethlisberger often having to throw under heavy pressure and throwing short passes when he did have the chance.

Roethlisberger threw away a third-down pass under pressure from Jared Allen to end the first series and had to go to some short, quick passes on the second series.

The Vikings broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter when Peterson dived high and in from 1 yard away. After the play, cornerback Ike Taylor took a swing at a Vikings player and was flagged 15 yards for it.

Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte, a native of Ford City, completed four passes on his team's first scoring drive that came at the Steelers' 47 when Mendenhall lost his first fumble.

The big play on the scoring drive came from the 29. Linebacker Larry Foote left the game with what appears to be a minor knee injury, and on the first play in which Lawrence Timmons replaced him, Frerotte went right after the young linebacker. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe beat Timmons down the middle and Frerotte hit him for a 26-yard completion to the 3 on the final play of the first quarter.

Reed kicked a 35-yard field goal at 6:40 of the second quarter but the Steelers' scoring "drive" left a lot to be desired.

Taylor redeemed himself for his earlier penalty when he intercepted a Frerotte pass in the second quarter to give his offense the ball at Minnesota's 34.

A 9-yard Willie Parker run and a 12-yard facemask penalty committed against Parker by Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson were the only big plays of the drive. The penalty gave the Steelers a first down at the 12, but a quick pass to a slanting Santonio Holmes was slightly behind him for an incompletion, Parker was crushed by 375-pound tackle Pat Williams for a 4-yard loss on a screen pass, and Roethlisberger threw inside as Nate Washington leaned to the outside for another incompletion.

The half ended with Minnesota ahead, 7-3.

The Vikings stretched their lead to 10-3 when Longwell kicked a 37-yard field goal with 10:06 to go in the third quarter.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at [email=""][/email].
First published on August 24, 2008 at 12:00 am