JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Big Ben needed just six plays to look ready for the regular season.
Ben Roethlisberger threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant on the opening drive, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were much more proficient in their second preseason game, a 23-21 loss at Jacksonville on Friday night.
The Jaguars (1-0) were the real losers, though. Tight end Julius Thomas likely will miss the rest of the preseason with a broken left hand.
Coach Gus Bradley said Thomas has a “stable fracture” in the back of his hand.
“The good news is it’s quick healing,” Bradley said. “The tough thing is he’s going to be out probably the rest of the preseason. Hopefully, if everything works out right, he’ll be back ready for the first game.”
The Steelers (0-2) managed just three points and 191 yards in a 14-3 loss to Minnesota in the Hall of Fame game last Sunday. Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, receiver Antonio Brown and several other starters sat out Pittsburgh’s preseason opener. The trio came up big in just six plays of work against the Jaguars.
Roethlisberger completed all three passes for 59 yards, including a perfectly lobbed deep ball to Bryant on third down. He also completed a pass on a 2-point conversion. Bell carried twice for 18 yards. Brown caught the only ball throw in his direction.
“We want to start fast,” Roethlisberger said. “We got everybody involved. … I told the O-line if you guys protect like that and open up holes in the run game, good things are going to happen. That’s what we need to do every time. We need to start fast like that.”
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played nearly the entire first half, completing 11 of 15 passes for 118 yards. Three of his incompletions were drops, with Allen Hurns, Bernard Pierce and Clay Harbor failing to hold on to passes. Bortles also ran for a score, a diving, 4-yard scamper that had teammates cheering and his coaches cringing. Bortles rolled left, took off and took a shot from safety Alden Darby as he lunged for the pylon.
“That’s him,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “We talked about his toughness. That’s part of his game. I don’t see how you could change that with him.”
Bortles’ run put Jacksonville ahead 10-8. Backup Chad Henne made it 17-8 with a 31-yard TD pass to Harbor in the second quarter.
Third-stringer Stephen Morris provided the winning score, a 1-yard plunge to cap a 92-yard drive with 2:54 remaining.
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