PITTSBURGH -- The only thing worse than NFL preseason games are ones that go into overtime.
The Buffalo Bills drove 55 yards in 4:21, and Dan Carpenter kicked his third field goal to tie the score 16-16 with 1:56 remaining. The Steelers drove into Buffalo territory, but quarterback Bruce Gradkowski's pass was tipped and intercepted to appear to send the game into an extra session.
However, backup Steelers linebacker Vic So'oto strip-sacked Bills third-team quarterback Jeff Tuel, and linebacker Howard Jones recovered the fumble. The ball ended up at the 1 with 15 seconds remaining. Gradkowski's run went for a one-yard loss, and Shawn Suisham kicked a 20-yard field goal with no time left to give the Steelers a 19-16 win Saturday night at Heinz Field.
Suisham had kicked a 48-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 16-13 advantage with 9:26 remaining. The club could not hold the lead. Carpenter also missed from 49 yards out wide right in the second half.
Key players to not dress for the game for the Steelers included long-snapper Greg Warren, safety Will Allen, cornerback Devin Smith, rookie cornerback Shaquille Richardson, fullback-tight end Will Johnson, rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, backup tight end Matt Spaeth and second-year linebacker Jarvis Jones. Only Jones was slated to start. He was replaced by veteran Chris Carter.
The Steelers starting offensive line handled Buffalo's defensive front in the first half, including end Mario Williams, as the Steelers secured a 13-6 halftime advantage. The club's defense played pretty well, too, with rookie No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier making a 11 solo tackles -- including two on special teams -- and collecting an interception that he returned 27 yards to put the offense in scoring range.
Negatives for the starting defense included two penalties by new safety Mike Mitchell, including a 15-yard taunting call and holding, and poor overall play by cornerback Cortez Allen. He was beaten on a regular basis despite Bills No. 1 pick Sammy Watkins injuring his ribs early in the game and not returning.
Fortunately for the Steelers, there were many more positives. Cam Heyward continued to show that he's quickly becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber defensive end. Shazier's speed and athleticism far outweighed any mistakes he made and showed why the Steelers selected him in the first round. And Antonio Brown cemented his role as the club's top receiver.
Buffalo's two decent offensive drives in the first half against the Steelers' No. 1 defense were 11 plays each, but both ended in field goals. Dan Carpenter gave the Bills a 3-0 lead with a 37-yarder after an opening series that lasted 5:25. Shazier's interception ended Buffalo's second drive, but the third one lasted 4:04 and ended with Carpenter's 53-yard boomer into the open end zone.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed on first down during each of the opening two possessions in the first half, opening the game with a four-yard toss to Dri Archer and then connecting on a crossing pattern to Brown that he took 76 yards for a touchdown. Roethlisberger looked off the Bills safety to freeze him, and Brown raced across the middle in the open for an easy completion. He ran untouched into the end zone.
Shazier's interception keyed the Steelers' second possession, but Roethlisberger converted three third-down plays for first downs. The final one was a third-and-11 from the 16. Roethlisberger led second-year wideout Markus Wheaton perfectly into the end zone. Wheaton beat cornerback Stephon Gilmore for the score. Wheaton finished with two catches and a touchdown.
Roethlisberger left the game after three possessions, midway through the second quarter, and was 8-for-11 for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating at an astronomical 150.8. He was replaced second-year player Landry Jones with 5:34 remaining in the first half. Jones is being given a chance to beat out veteran Bruce Gradkowski for the backup quarterback job.
Neither has acquitted himself too well so far, and Jones was abysmal against a bad Bills second-team defense. Jones threw a pick to end his opening possession and helped erase a stunning 40-yard catch and run by Archer early in the second half by being strip-sacked. The fumble was returned all the way back to the 16-yard line, and the Bills scored three plays later to tie the score at 13-13 and erase the Steelers halftime lead.
The Steelers got the ball back when cornerback Brice McCain knocked the ball loose and safety Robert Golden recovered. Golden also deflected a pass intended for the end zone to help the Steelers preserve a goal-line stand at the end of the first half and thwarted a potential touchdown drive with an interception in the red zone.
Golden was a bright spot for the club's secondary. Cornerback Antwon Blake was not. He was beaten for a couple big pass plays and had a pass-interference call in the end zone to set up the short touchdown run by Buffalo's Anthony Dixon that tied the score.
Jones was 2-for-5 for 53 yards and one interception with one fumble. Gradkowski came on with 5:32 remaining in the third quarter and wasn't much better. A delay of game penalty helped lead to a punt from their own end zone. Gradkowski was a little better and led the Steelers to the game-winning field-goal drive. It wasn't long, but it ended in points.
Notes: The Steelers only injury was to offensive guard Bryant Browning, who injured his left shoulder. ... The attendance was 50,434. ... The Steelers have a short week, as they should practice Monday and Tuesday for a Thursday night game at Philadelphia.