Pittsburgh Upends K.C.
Rudolph Pilots Steelers To 17-7 Preseason Win
PITTSBURGH — Mason Rudolph guided a long first-half touchdown drive to perhaps nudge ahead of Josh Dobbs in the race to be the backup behind Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-7 on Saturday night.
Rudolph finished 10 of 15 for 77 yards while Dobbs completed 6 of 11 for 95 yards with a red-zone interception on a night the Steelers (2-0) opted to keep several key starters on the sideline, from quarterback Roethlisberger to Pro Bowl offensive linemen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey to rookie linebacker Devin Bush.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid suggested Patrick Mahomes would play most of the first half.
The reigning NFL MVP — who directed a touchdown in his lone drive in Kansas City’s preseason opener last week — did little during two series of work following a thunderstorm that forced the opening kickoff to be pushed back nearly an hour.
Mahomes completed just 2 of 5 passes for 11 yards, a far cry from his previous visit to Heinz Field, when he threw for six touchdowns in a Week 2 win last September that served as a harbinger of the season to come.
Mahomes’ best play during his cameo may have been his decision to slide during an 8-yard scramble, something he didn’t do a week ago when he lowered his shoulder against Cincinnati rather than step out of bounds.
Chad Henne found Mecole Hardman for a 17-yard touchdown late in the first half for Kansas City (1-1), which managed a lone touchdown a week after putting up 38 against the Bengals. Hardman, a second-round pick, has two touchdowns in two weeks and his rapid emergence could give Reid another option to play with in what could be the NFL’s most potent offense.
Pittsburgh chose to give the 37-year-old Roethlisberger the night off. Rudolph, a third-round pick a year ago who is hoping to supplant Dobbs as the top backup, was given the start instead. Playing with a group that included Pro Bowl running back James Conner and star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rudolph struggled early to gain some momentum.
It wasn’t until Rudolph found himself playing with the reserves that he started to get going. He directed a 14-play, 89-yard drive in the second quarter, a series that ended with a 14-yard sprint to the end zone by Jaylen Samuels.
Dobbs started off brilliantly, hitting Washington for a 40-yard gain. He couldn’t sustain the momentum, thanks in part to an interception in the end in which he overthrew Diontae Johnson. The ball sailed into the arms of Kansas City’s Charvarius Ward to cut short a scoring chance late in the first half.
Johnson, a third-round pick, ended up scoring in the fourth quarter when he made a diving grab in the end zone on a heave from fourth-stringer Devlin Hodges.
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Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is entering the season with a significant amount of pressure after Pittsburgh opted to pick up his fifth-year option but have not approached him about signing a long-term deal. Dupree provided a spark, sacking Mahomes and Henne and knocking down a pass.
A difficult week that began with the sudden passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake at age 62 ended with the Steelers making sure Drake’s legacy won’t be forgotten.
Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert and their wives attended Drake’s funeral in Gallatin, Tennessee. The wide receivers took the field for warmups with shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Shut out the noise,” the credo Drake adopted for his group for the 2019 season.
Dozens of Steelers knelt for a prayer shortly before kickoff and the team will wear “DD” stickers on their helmets this season and a moment of silence was held just before the national anthem.
The Chiefs didn’t escape Heinz Field unscathed. Safety Tyrann Matthieu left with a shoulder injury. Wide receiver Deon Yelder went down with a knee injury and Marcus Kemp exited with a knee injury. Linebacker Breeland Speaks suffered a knee injury in the second half and did not return. Quarterback Chase Litton was taken out in the final seconds after taking a hard hit shortly after releasing a pass.
Chiefs: Host San Francisco next Saturday.
Steelers: Expect to give Roethlisberger his only reps of the preseason next Sunday when they visit Tennessee.
BROWNS 21, COLTS 18
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Garrett Gilbert threw two touchdown passes in the first half and David Blough added another TD pass in the second half Saturday, leading the Cleveland Browns past Indianapolis 21-18.
Cleveland (2-0) has won nine of its past 10 preseason games — this one with its top two quarterbacks sitting out and Kareem Hunt returned to the field for the first time in nearly nine months. It’s the first time the Browns have beaten the Colts in the preseason since 1979 when the franchise was still located in Baltimore.
Quarterback Chad Kelly did everything he could to keep the Colts’ winning streak intact.
After Blough gave Cleveland a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter with a 4-yard TD pass to Derrick Willies , Kelly tried to rally the Colts.
He took advantage of one roughing the passer call to get the Colts into scoring position then threw a 24-yard TD strike to Ross Travis , who drew a lowering the helmet penalty on the play. Kelly’s 1-yard conversion pass to Hale Hentges made it 21-18. And Kelly led the Colts to the Browns 9-yard line in the final minute before Will Harvey swatted away Kelly’s final throw on fourth-and-1.
Gilbert played the entire first half and was 13 of 19 with 151 yards. Blough played the entire second half and was 7 of 12 with 74 yards.
Kelly wound up 12 of 17 with 115 yards for Indy (0-2).
PATRIOTS 22, TITANS 17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota jumped into the air and flipped over Patriots cornerback Duron Harmon into the end zone for a 2-point conversion.
In a preseason game nearly eight months after the Titans quarterback couldn’t play in Tennessee’s regular-season finale because of nerve injuries. Mariota scored, then went to the bench for an earful from teammates.
“They told me not to do it again,” Mariota said.
TEXANS 30, LIONS 23
HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson took advantage of one series in his preseason debut looking sharp in directing a 75-yard drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to help the Houston Texans to a 30-23 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
Watson, who sat out in a loss to Green Bay last week, was 5 of 7 for 60 yards and scrambled once for 7 yards. After being sacked an NFL-high 62 times last season, the third-year player had plenty of time to throw while facing a Lions defense which opened the game with the bulk of its starters.
Hopkins, also making his preseason debut, had two receptions for 17 yards and shook off Detroit’s Quandre Diggs to get open and make the TD catch that put Houston up 7-0.