The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Heinz Field for a live game for the first time since their AFC Wild Card defeat to the Cleveland Browns in the 2020 playoffs. This time the game meant nothing, and was against the Detroit Lions in the second official week of the 2021 NFL Preseason.
Nonetheless, with fans in stands, the Steelers were about to put their best foot forward as they had the majority of their starters slated to make their first, and possibly only, preseason appearance of the year. Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others were all suited up and ready to knock the rust off.
The Steelers started with the football, and after a false start on Chuks Okorafor to start play, the offense struggled behind the chains. On third down Roethlisberger showed signs of his younger years, scrambling in the backfield to create time and room. He delivered a pass to Eric Ebron who dropped the would-be first down catch.
Pressley Harvin took the first punting duties of the night, and after a 50 yard punt the defense took over. After consecutive first downs, the Detroit drive stalled at the 45 and were forced to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh.
With Ben Roethlisberger and the starters staying in the game for their second drive, what ensued was a great mix of pass and run, and a 9 play 82 yard drive which resulted in a beautiful third down touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth.
First NFL TD for @pat_fry5!— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 21, 2021
: @nflnetwork/@KDKA pic.twitter.com/VsOmpvwvhL
The Chris Boswell extra point was good, making the score 7-0 with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
After a three and out by the Steelers’ defense, Roethlisberger and company remained in for a third drive. On first down a play action pass turned into a check down to Najee Harris, and after he made a man miss the 46-yard catch and run put the Steelers in the red-zone.
Najee Harris is loose pic.twitter.com/rdR7h1nOMq— PFF (@PFF) August 22, 2021
Two plays later, it was Roethlisberger finding Freiermuth again for another third down, touchdown pass.
.@pat_fry5 would like another please— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 22, 2021
: @nflnetwork/@KDKA pic.twitter.com/QyYqlj63CF
Another Boswell point-after made the score 14-0.
The Steelers’ defense prevented another first down on the Lions’ next drive, giving the ball back to the Steelers’ offense with 2:07 left in the quarter. Mason Rudolph took over, and the Steelers were driving at the end of the first quarter.