Let the games begin
Steelers prevail in exhibition opener
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Watching T.J. Watt and Josh Dobbs in their first NFL game, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got what he expected from the draft picks.
They had their ups and downs, and they showed they belonged in the league, as did eighth-year linebacker Arthur Moats.
Dobbs threw a 28-yard touchdown pass, Moats set up Chris Boswell’s go-ahead 37-yard field goal in the third quarter with an interception and Watt –the younger brother of Houston’s J.J. Watt — lived up to his first-round billing with sacks on his first two series in a 20-12 preseason win over the New York Giants on Friday night.
With the Steelers short-handed, Dobbs, Watt and Moats were on the field most of the game.
“I think just getting out there in general, having a play on (special) teams and then having the sack as I did, it calmed the nerves a little bit,” said Watt, who had five tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits.
“At the same time I felt like I belong here. I came into this game with a certain amount of confidence because of the work I put in.”
A fourth-round pick out of Tennessee, Dobbs didn’t get off to a quick start. His two early interceptions led to two New York Giants field goals, but he turned his game around with a 44-yard pass to Cobi Hamilton to set up Bosworth’s first field goal and he added a 28-yard scoring strike to Hamilton for a 10-9 lead after Donte Deayon fumbled a punt in the final minute of the first half and Mike Hilton recovered at the Giants 28.
“Of course there were some throws you want back and some plays that were good,” Dobbs said. “I was able to respond from a little adversity at the beginning of the game, but this is a good start and I’ll be able to build off this.”
Terrell Watson added a 15-yard touchdown run in a game that had little offense with Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers and Eli Manning of the Giants being given the night off.
Moats was a force on defense for the Steelers. He had six tackles, three sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass defended in addition to his interception. He laughed when asked when was the last time he had a game like that.
“Playing Madden,” he said.
“Any time you are keeping score you want to win,” Moats said. “Even though it’s the preseason and some teams may not take it as serious, any time we are out there and representing the Steelers organization we want to put our best foot forward and we did that tonight.”
Pittsburgh also was without injured backup quarterback Landry Jones, but that didn’t matter because the Giants didn’t get much from either Josh Johnson or Geno Smith, and New York was generous with the football.
A 45-yard field goal by Mike Nugent on the opening series of the second half put New York ahead 12-10, but Moats’ interception and Boswell’s field goal put the Steelers ahead 13-12.
Watson capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive that Bart Houston guided in his first series after taking over for Dobbs, who was 8 of 15 for 100 yards and two interceptions.
Blake’s interception and 11-yard return to the Steelers 39 set up a 27-yard field goal by rookie Aldrick Rosas, who added a 52-yarder late in the second quarter for a 9-3 lead.
An interception by lineman Devon Taylor led to a 30-yard field goal by Nugent and a 6-0 lead.
JOSH AND GENO: Johnson and Smith had their ups and downs in the battle for the No. 2 job behind Manning. Johnson was 5 of 10 for 31 yards. Smith was 10 of 16 for 114. Neither got much protection from their line and running game (23 carries for 73 yards) offered little help.
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Johnson moved the team in and out of the huddle well, but Smith started off with a hot hand but his interception “was a blind throw.”
INJURIES: Steelers second-round draft pick JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game with a concussion in the first quarter. Giants veteran S Duke Ihenacho pulled a hamstring in the second quarter and did not return.
MISSING STARS: Steelers WRs Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, who is coming off a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, did not play. Bryant will return to practice Sunday. Giants WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard did not play. Brandon Marshall played the first series. New York also rested DE Jason Pierre-Paul and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
“It’s a great feeling, it’s a long time coming,” Bryant said of getting back to practice after the game. “I worked hard and I’m just happy the process is almost over.”