PITTSBURGH – Saturday was the regular-season tune-up for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a majority of their starters played. With the Lions sitting a good portion of their starters on both sides of the ball, it was going to be an uphill battle to leave Heinz Field with a win.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes to tight end Pat Freiermuth on the second and third Steelers possessions of the game to take an early 14-0 lead. The Steelers held off a late Lions rally to win 26-20. The loss dropped the Lions to 0-2 in the preseason.
The Steelers led 20-0 at halftime and out-gained the Lions 285 yards to 65 in the first half.
Tim Boyle started the game at quarterback for the Lions. He finished 7-of-15 passing for 44 yards with just a 53.5 passer rating playing the first half and one possession to start the third quarter.
David Blough took over midway through the third quarter and led the Lions on their first scoring drive of the game (14 plays, 82 yards), capped off by a 7-yard Godwin Igwebuike touchdown run.
Blough led a second scoring drive late in the fourth quarter that finished with a 10-yard scoring strike to rookie wide receiver Javon McKinley.
Detroit recovered an onside kick following the McKinley touchdown, and Blough orchestrated his third scoring drive of the second half finished off by running back Craig Reynolds' second touchdown of the preseason, this one a tough 3-yard run.
The Steelers ran out the clock from there.
Blough completed 12 of his 17 pass attempts for 143 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a 115.6 passer rating. He also scrambled twice for 26 yards.
Night off: A number of veteran starters had the night off including: QB Jared Goff, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Kalif Raymond, RB D'Andre Swift, RB Jamaal Williams, T Taylor Decker, C Frank Ragnow, DE Michael Brockers, OLB Trey Flowers, OLB Romeo Okwara, LB Jamie Collins Sr. and LB Alex Anzalone.
Long look: Detroit's expected Week 1 starters in the secondary – Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye at cornerback and Tracy Walker and Will Harris at safety – started and played into the second quarter. Detroit sat most of their projected starters at linebacker and upfront along the defensive line.
It was an up-and-down performance for Detroit's secondary. Roethlisberger completed 8-of-10 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns with a 158.3 passer rating in his three series of work.
Okudah gave up a big play early, and Roethlisberger got Walker to bite on a pump fake before delivering his first scoring strike. Okudah did come back later in the second quarter, blanketing Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to force a field goal on an incomplete pass in the end zone.
Rookie spotlight: Undrafted rookie cornerback AJ Parker has worked himself into a significant role in Detroit's defense, playing first-team reps at nickel corner the last couple weeks in practice and earning the start Saturday.
Parker had a couple nice tackles for loss and a pass breakup, finishing with eight total tackles. He's certainly trending toward inclusion on the 53-man roster, and maybe towards a big role as the nickel.
View photos from Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Week 2 game at Heinz Field on Saturday, Aug. 21 in Pittsburgh, PA.
Competition battle to watch: Wide receiver
The top four receiver spots seemed pretty locked up with Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown, but who will be the fifth and potentially sixth receiver on the initial 53-man roster?
Second-year player Quintez Cephus worked into the game early in the first half and was targeted three times, catching two passes for 15 yards.
Tom Kennedy caught four passes for 61 yards, but couldn't haul in an over-the-shoulder grab on a two-point try in the third quarter. Geronimo Allison was targeted twice with one catch for a 22-yard gain in the fourth quarter. McKinley had the one touchdown grab of 10 yards.
Injury report: Nothing major on the injury front for the Lions
Next up: vs. Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 27