PITTSBURGH – Charlie Batch just might be the Steelers’ most important backup. Or at least he was.
The Steelers’ only experienced backup quarterback fractured his right collarbone during a 6-yard second-quarter scramble after a mix-up in the backfield with running back Mewelde Moore. Batch remained in the game for a play, but was replaced afterward by rookie Dennis Dixon.
The Steelers beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 16-10, in the preseason opener at Heinz Field.
In his only series, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. The bulk of the QB work went to Dixon, the fifth-round rookie who underwent surgery on an ACL tear only eight months ago. Dixon appears fully recovered and completed 6 of 9 passes for 30 yards, although his crash course is only beginning.
The first-team Steelers looked sharp on their only series of the game. On third-and-10, an all-out Eagles’ blitz was picked up and Roethlisberger read single coverage on Holmes, his hot read. Holmes took the short pass and skipped past free safety Brian Dawkins 19 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
“It was a blitz, cover zero (no deep safety),” said Roethlisberger. “It was a sight adjust. We were on the same page.”
“We knew it was a corner stunt,” said Holmes. “We didn’t want to point it out to let the DBs know that we were reading it. We were just on the same page.”
Parker flashed his old quickness in gaining 20 yards on three first-series carries. It was a relief for the back whose season ended last December with a broken fibula.
“It was big for me personally, getting on that field and running and getting everything all back,” Parker said. “It’s just like a dream come true. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”
The Eagles took a 10-7 lead on the hot passing of Donovan McNabb. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 97 yards in leading the Eagles to a 28-yard field goal and a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide-open fullback Jason Davis.
The Steelers tied the game with a 20-yard Jeff Reed field goal late in the second quarter, and took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard Reed field goal after Ryan McBean recovered an Eagles fumble at the Philadelphia 24. Reed’s 50-yarder midway through the fourth quarter put the Steelers ahead, 16-10.
Aside from the way the Steelers handled the Eagles’ blitz, and the running of Parker, other noteworthy Steelers performances were turned in by:
-- Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who made the first special-teams tackle, showed a Pro Bowl burst in keeping a short pass short, and pushed wide receiver Jason Avant out of the back of the end zone to negate an Eagles touchdown.
-- Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley pressured McNabb on back-to-back plays on the Steelers’ first defensive series. Woodley was held by right tackle Jon Runyan on the first pressure, though it wasn’t called. Woodley received a make-up call on the next play when he accidentally tripped over a prone Runyan while closing on McNabb.
-- First-round pick Rashard Mendenhall’s first carry of seven yards was stopped with a hard hit by safety Quintin Mikell, and Mendenhall appeared tentative until ripping off 7 and 15-yard runs against the Eagles’ No. 2 defense. Mendenhall finished with 34 yards on seven carries.
-- Center Justin Hartwig pulled and sealed the left corner on Mendenhall’s 15-yard run in the second quarter. Mendenhall made a defender miss in the backfield and was led around the corner by fullback Davis.
-- Backup buck linebacker Keyaron Fox put together a solid performance both in coverage and at the point of attack. His four tackles led the Steelers in the first half.
-- Rookie second-round pick Limas Sweed leaped high to snare the first pass thrown to him by Dixon, but was undercut by a defender and landed on his face. He returned and finished with two catches for 14 yards.
Also of note, rookie free safety Ryan Mundy left the game with a left leg injury early in the second quarter. He was replaced by undrafted rookie Roy Lewis.