08-30-2010, 12:56 PM
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Steelers Beat Themselves In Loss To Broncos
DENVER -- Keenan Lewis hardly seized the opportunity afforded him by Bryant McFadden's injury, and Byron Leftwich erased any doubt as to who starts the first four games of the regular season before he played a down Sunday night.
Those were the two most significant developments to come of the oxymoron that is the most important game of the preseason.
Going against the Broncos as well as themselves, the Steelers were unable to overcome a flurry of penalties and a Dennis Dixon pass that accounted for six of Denver's points in a 34-17 loss at Invesco Field.
The game amounted to the Steelers' final dress rehearsal for the regular season, as Thursday's preseason final against the Panthers is for those battling for roster and practice-squad spots.
Coach Mike Tomlin had indicated that the Steelers' starters would only play the first half if he was satisfied with their execution and effort. That they played into the third quarter was telling of how the Steelers fared on a hot, windy night in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.
"Some guys were presented with some opportunities, and quite frankly, they didn't take advantage of them," Tomlin said.
The mistake-prone Steelers racked up four personal-foul penalties on defense -- and that was just in the first half.
Two of those were assessed to Lewis, who tackled Eddie Royal out of bounds on the second play of the game after getting beat for an 18-yard reception.
After struggling in the first quarter, Lewis ceded his position opposite Ike Taylor to William Gay. His benching came after his second personal-foul penalty.
Lewis' troubles weren't just on the field.
As the Steelers were filing into the visiting locker room, Lewis punched a sign that had been encased in glass, breaking the glass and drawing more ire from Tomlin.
Asked later about Lewis' play, Tomlin said, "He stunk it up."
Quarterback Dennis Dixon also struggled while playing with the first-team offense for the first time this preseason.
With the Steelers trailing, 10-3, Dixon moved the Steelers inside the Broncos' 20-yard line. But he had a sideline pass intercepted by cornerback Andre Goodman, who returned it 77 yards for a touchdown.
Dixon earlier had thrown an interception in the end zone, preventing the Steelers from getting at least three points out of the drive.
Playing the entire second quarter, Dixon posted a passer rating (19.6) that wasn't even double his uniform number (10).
"He didn't play well," Tomlin said. "A lot of guys didn't."
Ben Roethlisberger started the game and completed 4 of 6 passes for 67 yards. He led a seven-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a 33-yard Jeff Reed field goal.
Roethlisberger didn't get a chance to finish the Steelers' second drive of the game. Dixon took over at the start of the second quarter.
After a forgettable second quarter, Dixon played better on the only drive he led in the third quarter. He marched the Steelers deep into Denver territory but got thrown for a 6-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Broncos' 17-yard line.
Leftwich, the presumptive starter while Roethlisberger serves a four-game suspension, took over midway through the third quarter and ran the second-team offense.
He misfired on all four of his pass attempts and gave way to Charlie Batch midway through the fourth quarter.
Batch threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown but had an interception returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Syd'Quan Thompson. The turnover was a result of rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders running a wrong route.
"It's a good thing it's preseason football," Tomlin said. "We've got a myriad of things to learn from."
Look at these eyebrows. These are attack eyebrows! They could take off bottle caps!