EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On a night that Ben Roethlisberger got back to playing football, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed they have a chance to survive the start of the season without their suspended star.
Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon combined to lead three long touchdown drives after Roethlisberger made his preseason debut and the Steelers defeated the Giants 24-17 on Saturday night, spoiling New York's first home game in its new $1.6 billion stadium.
Roethlisberger will be suspended for the opening six games of the regular season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, leaving the Steelers without the quarterback who has led them to two Super Bowls.
While his teammates were glad to see him back on the field, everyone knows it won't matter once the regular season gets underway.
"I don't care about the disruptions," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's [Roethlisberger] a professional. His job is to play. He's done that and he needs to continue to do that. We'll deal with all the other things we need to deal with in the appropriate manner."
Roethlisberger completed six of eight passes for 76 yards and an interception and led the Steelers on a 13-play, 58-yard drive that lasted seven-plus minutes and ended in a 26-yard field goal by Jeff Reed.
"It was great and I'm sure he felt great to be out there and play some ball," Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said.
"A lot of nerves, butterflies, excitement but to get back out there with the guys and get between the lines and the lights and the away stadium; it was awesome," he said.
This was a quarterback mismatch. The Steelers (2-0) had three good ones while the Giants (1-1) had only third-stringer Rhett Bomar, with starter Eli Manning (stitches) and backup Jim Sorgi (shoulder) sidelined.
New York's offense was nonexistent until the fourth quarter, and the defense wasn't much better.
"They are three very different guys so it is hard to game plan for a team like that," Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the Steelers' quarterbacks.
Leftwich (3 of 6 for 95 yards) gave the Steelers the lead for good at 10-7, tossing a 68-yard touchdown pass play to Mike Wallace with 2:49 left in the half.
Dixon took over in the third quarter and led Pittsburgh on touchdown drives of 78 and 82 yards to push the lead to 24-7. Isaac Redman capped the first one with a 12-yard run up the middle and Dwyane Wright finished the second one with a 2-yard run.
Dixon finished 7 of 8 for 82 yards, along with five runs for 27 yards.
"It's not an issue now," Polamalu said. "When the season starts, it's going to be a whole different story. It will be interesting because we've never had to face something like that with a major role player on the team."
Leftwich should have led the Steelers to two scores in his three series. After Joe Burnett intercepted a pass by Bomar late in the first half, Leftwich hit Antwaan Randle El for 15 yards for a first-and-goal at the 1.
Instead of spiking the ball, he tried a sneak and forced Pittsburgh to call its final time out with 15 seconds left in the half. After Randle El could not handle a fade pattern, the Steelers gambled with a run and Mewelde Moore was stopped, allowing the clock to run out.
New York's best drive came early in the second quarter when Steve Smith outjumped cornerback Bryant McFadden for a spectacular 45-yard catch to the Steelers 30. Ahmad Bradshaw made a great move to the left corner to score on a 9-yard run six plays later.
Bomar, who has never taken a snap in a regular-season game, finished 13 of 26 for 167 yards and one interception.
"I was comfortable with the game," Bomar said. "It wasn't too fast. It was exciting to be out there with the firsts and play the whole game and get the reps. You just have to treat it like any other game."
Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara thought Bomar did well. However, he said it was hard to judge the game because it was the Giants second this week.
"I don't think anyone is overly excited about anything that happened," O'Hara said. "It was bland. We had two games in five days so I think now we can resume some normalcy. This last week with us leaving Albany and having just two practices wasn't normal."
Manning and Sorgi were hurt in the Giants' 31-16 win over the Jets on Monday night. Manning needed 12 stitches to close a 3-inch gash to the left side of his forehead after his helmet was knocked off and he was hit by Jets safety Jim Leonhard.
Coach Tom Coughlin said after the game that Manning had his stitches removed and he probably will practice this week. The Giants play the Ravens in Baltimore on Saturday.
Sorgi tore a muscle in his shoulder throwing a touchdown pass to Victor Cruz in the fourth quarter. He is expected to be sidelined 2/3 weeks.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese said the team is concerned about Sorgi's injury but is hoping he can be ready for the start of the season on Sept. 12 against Carolina.
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