By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers entered this season with two veteran kickers, but their two young backups proved to be more than capable against the Indianapolis Colts during the second preseason game.
Rookie punter Drew Butler from Georgia was consistent throughout the game, while rookie place-kicker Daniel Hrapmann from Southern Mississippi booted four field goals to give the Steelers a 26-24 victory Sunday night at Heinz Field. The game-winner came from 22-yards out with 20 seconds remaining.
The Steelers took a 14-0 lead through one quarter, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger directed a six-play, 80-yard drive for the first score. And Ike Taylor returned an interception 49 yards for the second touchdown.
“Coach Dick LeBeau always tells us to stay close to the receiver, and when the ball comes your way you have to catch the ball,” Taylor said. “I turned around, and the ball was right there. I just had to make sure I caught it.
“It’s very important, very important (to force turnovers). We try to create as many turnovers as possible. This defense has been around for a while. We have a good group of young guys. (So), we’ll be fine.”
Antonio Brown took a short pass and dazzled the defense with a 57-yard score with the bulk of the yards coming after the catch. Brown also had an 18-yard reception in the drive. Roethlisberger was 5-for-9 for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception leading a handful of possessions. Jonathan Dwyer started at running back and finished with 43 yards on eight carries (5.4 yards per rush).
“We’re making a little bit of progress,” Roethlisberger said when asked about the offense…
“I still think we’re leaving a lot out there. We’re not playing as good as we could or should, but we’re making progress.
“(Antonio and I) were in the huddle, and I had to call the play. I had a two-way option, and I gave it to him. I thought he’d get the first down, but he ended up getting a little more.”
Brown also was cautiously optimistic when asked about the offense’s progress.
“We did a little better, a step closer to what we want to be,” Brown said. “We’re going in the right direction, but we’re still not where we want to be. We have the preseason to iron out the kinks and get better. We need to get on the same page with the new offense and executing the game plan.
“We’re still not there, yet. (On the touchdown), it was a great block by Heath Miller and a great block by Baron Batch. Ben had a great play-action fake, and he tricked the defense to think it was a run. So, it was a great team play. There’s nowhere else I want to play (but Heinz Field). It’s a special feeling every time we come into this stadium.”
Veteran Charlie Batch took over in the second quarter at quarterback and was ineffective, at first, but he played a little better in the third and led two field-goal drives. Both went into the red zone, so it was a little disconcerting that the Steelers only got three points each time but Batch didn’t have much time to throw on many occasions. He finished with 7-for-10 passing for 84 yards.
The Steelers defense also got an interception from second-year cornerback Cortez Allen, who appears to be the first corner off the bench in passing situations. That pick was a gift, as the receiver basically flipped it to Allen trying to fight for more yardage, but the Steelers DB had to catch it.
“(Turnovers) are a big goal of ours this year,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “We have to get more turnovers and get our offense back on the field. If we can do that, I think we’ll win a lot of games.”
Indy’s rookie quarterback Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois was picked off by Steelers’ first-year cornerback Josh Victorian from Louisiana Tech. That gave the ball back to first-year quarterback Jerrod Johnson from Texas A&M, who played the fourth quarter and guided a field-goal drive. The three second-half field goals for the Steelers, which cut the Colts’ lead to 24-23, were by Hrapmann and were down the middle from 25, 39 and 43 yards.
Notes: The Steelers did not dress running backs Isaac Redman (groin) and Rashard Mendenhall (knee), linebackers James Harrison (knee) and Jason Worilds (shoulder), and nose tackle Casey Hampton (knee). … For the Colts, inside linebacker Pat Angerer, nose tackle Josh Chapman and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn did not dress. … McGlynn played collegiately at Pitt. …. 1st overall pick QB Andrew Luck went 16 of 25 for 175 yards with 2 interceptions. …