Ben Roethlisberger stood on the soggy Pittsburgh Steelers sideline, posing no threat to the Washington Redskins in a preseason game Saturday night at FedEx Field. The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was out with a sore Achilles tendon, the result of a practice mishap Thursday.
Roethlisberger is expected to be OK, but directing the Steelers’ offense in his place was backup Charlie Batch, a 12-year veteran who missed all of last season with a broken collarbone. Advantage, Redskins, right?
Not necessarily. Washington’s first-team defense was stout on its first series but something less than that on the second, when Pittsburgh took a 7-3 lead before the regulars came out.
“Their starters beat our starters - pure and simple,” Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “We didn’t make any plays, they beat us on third down and we made poor decisions. Other than that, it was delightful.”
On the Steelers’ first possession, the Redskins defense rendered Batch ineffective. The quarterback was hurried by Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, defensive end Andre Carter and rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo. The Steelers managed just 6 net yards despite a shaky unnecessary roughness penalty against cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
But with the Redskins leading 3-0, the Steelers’ second possession had a different outcome. Batch directed a nine-play, 50-yard drive for a touchdown scored with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
Dodging a blitz, Batch hit Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes for 16 yards on third-and-13. A few plays later, Batch - given time - found Hines Ward over the middle for 24 yards on third-and-10, beating Hall and safety LaRon Landry.
A 10-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller set up first-and-goal at the 3, and Willie Parker outran everybody to the end zone.
Batch, who played briefly last week against Arizona, was 5-for-14 for 63 yards.
In last week’s preseason opener, the Ravens on their first series went 67 yards in 13 plays and kicked a field goal against the Redskins’ No. 1 defense, which was missing Haynesworth and cornerback Carlos Rogers.
Carter isn’t concerned, however.
“A work in progress,” he said. “Once the New York game comes [in the season opener], that’s when the real bullets fly.”
The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth came out after four plays and reappeared only briefly.
“It was good to get out there tonight and knock some of the rust off,” he said. “We have all the time in the world. We just need some time to gel together, and we can accomplish a lot of great things. We could be one of the best defenses in the league.”
Orakpo played the entire first half and looked impressive for the second straight week. The 13th pick, whom the Redskins are converting from defensive end to linebacker, rushed the passer from a variety of locations and caused plenty of trouble.
“I’m reading stuff, and I’m a lot quicker and not playing as hesitant as I was before,” he said.
Said Haynesworth: “Brian created some great pressure off the edge. He was all over the field and made a lot of plays. He is a great young talent.”