But on opening night, at least, the possibilities seemed plentiful for Roethlisberger and the Steelers. He knocked the rust off his game, demonstrated that his elbow is sound and punctuated his return to the lineup with a season-opening win. Roethlisberger got better as the evening progressed, as he and the Steelers overcame a sluggish start to beat the New York Giants, 26-16, Monday night in East Rutherford, N.J.
“It’s awesome to have our quarterback back,” Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said in a postgame video conference, “and see him do the things that he does and in the manner in which he does them.”
Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes in completing 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards. The Steelers scored 23 straight points after trailing the Giants 10-3 in the second quarter. Roethlisberger provided second-quarter touchdown throws to wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington, and he teamed with Smith-Schuster again for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“There obviously were a little bit of jitters,” Roethlisberger said afterward in a video conference. “I was excited and nervous to be out there. I just wanted to not let my guys down. That was the biggest thing.”
The Steelers struggled and missed the playoffs last season with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges filling in. Now, Roethlisberger aims to prove he still can be an elite quarterback and he can get the Steelers back into contention as he seeks a third Super Bowl ring.
“I told the guys before the game, ‘It’s not about me individually,’ ” Roethlisberger said. “The reason I came back is for these guys, for this team. It’s a special group of football players and men. And so I’m just thankful to be part of it.”
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense got rolling just before halftime. Roethlisberger completed five of seven passes for 67 yards on the Steelers’ final first-half drive, culminating with a 13-yard touchdown to Washington seven seconds before the break. He also provided an 11-yard scramble for a first down on that drive.
“That two-minute drive he was able to navigate before the half, I thought, was significant,” Tomlin said. Roethlisberger wore a specially designed sleeve while on the sideline to keep his elbow warm. Before the final drive of the first half, there were reports by on-site observers that Rudolph was warming up on the sideline, with his helmet on. But Roethlisberger said later he hadn’t been aware that Rudolph was warming up. He said he emerged from the game with his elbow feeling “really good.”
The Giants, playing without fans at MetLife Stadium, lost in Joe Judge’s NFL head coaching debut. Quarterback Daniel Jones began his first full season as an NFL starter with a second-quarter touchdown strike to wideout Darius Slayton. But Jones threw a pair of costly interceptions, one by T.J. Watt that set up the Steelers’ first touchdown and another by Cam Heyward that ended a 19-play, 87-yard drive with no points for the Giants.
Jones found Slayton for another touchdown with just less than two minutes remaining. But the Giants failed on a two-point conversion attempt and the Steelers recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock. Tailback Saquon Barkley managed only six rushing yards on 15 carries as the Giants had their issues on offense under new coordinator Jason Garrett, the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Facing the rugged Pittsburgh defense is never easy.
“Our defense is always gonna create plays for us,” Roethlisberger said. “If there happens to be a game when they’re off, then we need to step up offensively. But we said afterwards: ‘It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even really good all the time offensively. But we found a way to win a football game.’ At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters, that we win a football game. A lot of guys contributed.”
The Steelers emerged with injury concerns about running back James Conner, who exited the game with an ankle injury, and two offensive linemen, guard Stefen Wisniewski and right tackle Zach Banner. Otherwise it was a mostly positive night for them.
“I thought our guys brought energy,” Tomlin said. “I thought we could have played better. There was some sloppiness that’s kind of reflective of where we are. … We didn’t start with great fluidity on offense. All of those things, it’s reasonable to expect us to get better and get better in a hurry. We’d better. … It’s good to work on things, though, with a ‘W.’ So we’re appreciative of that.”
September 14, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT
Another Roethlisberger TD to Smith-Schuster pads Steelers’ lead
By Mark Maske
The Steelers have probably put this one out of reach. Ben Roethlisberger threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
It was Roethlisberger’s third touchdown pass of the night and Smith-Schuster’s second touchdown catch. The Steelers have scored 23 straight points since trailing, 10-3. (Steelers 26, Giants 10 with 5:23 left in the 4th quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 9:27 PM EDT
Steelers increase lead with field goal
By Mark Maske
The Steelers made it a two-score game with a 36-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. They moved 62 yards after the Giants failed to score on their 19-play drive. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a key fumble recovery to allow the Steelers to keep possession during their drive. (Steelers 19, Giants 10 with 14:19 left in the 4th quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 9:19 PM EDT
Giants get no points on long drive as Jones throws interception
By Mark Maske
The Giants kept the ball for 19 plays and moved 87 yards, converting four third downs and a fourth-and-one try into first downs on an impressive drive. But it led to no points when Daniel Jones threw an interception on a second-down play from the Pittsburgh 4-yard line.
Jones was moving to his left and was being chased by the Steelers’ Bud Dupree, who deflected the pass high into the air. Cam Heyward made the leaping interception at the goal line. (Steelers 16, Giants 10 with 3:17 left in the 3rd quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 8:54 PM EDT
Steelers helmets honor 17-year-old killed by a police officer
By Cindy Boren
Athletes across sports have chosen to make highly personal decisions about which victims of social injustice to pay tribute to on their uniforms.
For Naomi Osaka, there was a different victim’s name on each of the seven masks she wore while winning the U.S. Open. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was only one name they wanted on the bumper of their helmets for every game this season.
Starting with their season opener Monday night against the New York Giants in MetLife Stadium, their helmets will bore the name of Antwon Rose Jr. on the white plastic bar at the back of each player’s helmet. Rose, a Black 17-year-old, died in June 2018 after being shot in the back by a White East Pittsburgh police officer as he fled the scene when a car in which he was riding was pulled over during in investigation into a drive-by shooting. Two firearms were found in the vehicle, but Rose was unarmed when he was shot. Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with murder and found not guilty the following March.
Michelle Kenney, Rose’s mother, said she was overwhelmed with emotion when she got news of the Steelers’ decision last week from Coach Mike Tomlin.
“To get a call, with Mike Tomlin on the phone, to tell me he has two sons and he worries, too,” Kenney told Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “He said the team took a vote and they decided to do it. He told me he understood. He told me he worries about his kids. My thought was if he is worried about his kids, then everybody has to worry.”
September 14, 2020 at 8:50 PM EDT
Roethlisberger’s second TD pass gives Steelers halftime lead
By Mark Maske
Ben Roethlisberger got better as the first half progressed in his return from the elbow injury that caused him to miss almost all of last season. The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James Washington seven seconds before halftime and the Steelers lead the Giants, 16-10, at the break at MetLife Stadium.
Roethlisberger completed five of seven passes for 67 yards on that final first-half drive. He also provided an 11-yard scramble for a first down. The touchdown came on a slant pattern by Washington, who fought his way past Giants defenders after the catch to get into the end zone.
Just before that drive, there were reports that Roethlisberger had his right arm wrapped and backup quarterback Mason Rudolph was warming up on the Steelers’ sideline, with his helmet on.
For the half, Roethlisberger completed 12 of 21 passes for 145 yards. He also had a touchdown throw to wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. Kicker Chris Boswell provided a field goal but missed an extra point.
The Giants have been competitive in Joe Judge’s NFL head coaching debut. Quarterback Daniel Jones, beginning his first full season as an NFL starter, threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton. But Jones also threw an interception to Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt that set up the Steelers’ first touchdown. The Giants have been unable to create any running room for tailback Saquon Barkley, who has minus-three rushing yards on nine first-half carries. He does have 39 receiving yards on two catches. (Steelers 16, Giants 10 at halftime)
September 14, 2020 at 8:12 PM EDT
Roethlisberger throws TD pass as Steelers capitalize on interception
By Mark Maske
Ben Roethlisberger threw the first touchdown pass of his return from last season’s elbow injury, a 10-yarder to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on a third-and-seven play. Roethlisberger threw off his back foot before pressure by the Giants arrived, delivering a lob to Smith-Schuster on the left side of the field.
The touchdown was set up by an interception by Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, who made a leaping grab near the line of scrimmage of a Daniel Jones pass. The Steelers had to move only 36 yards after the turnover. They failed to pull even when kicker Chris Boswell missed the extra point. (Giants 10, Steelers 9 with 9:01 left in the 2nd quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 8:01 PM EDT
Daniel Jones puts Giants back in front with long TD pass
By Mark Maske
The Giants scored the night’s first touchdown on a 41-yard pass from Daniel Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton. Jones zipped an on-target throw over the middle of the field to Slayton, who made the grab while absorbing a hit in the end zone.
The touchdown came the play after the Giants got a first down when Pittsburgh’s Joe Haden was called for pass interference on a third-and-12 incompletion to Evan Engram. “I just don’t see much there,” former NFL referee John Parry, now ESPN’s rules analyst, said on the broadcast, expressing the opinion it should have been a no-call. (Giants 10, Steelers 3 with 13:45 left in the 2nd quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 7:47 PM EDT
Steelers get even with field goal
By Mark Maske
This game is off to a sloppy start, especially for the Steelers. But Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool provided a moment of pass-catching artistry with a toe-dragging grab along the sideline for a 28-yard gain on a third-and-nine play.
That set up a 41-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell as the Steelers drew even. (Steelers 3, Giants 3 with 49 seconds left in the 1st quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT
Giants get field goal after Steelers muff punt
By Mark Maske
The Giants have the early lead on a 21-yard field goal by kicker Graham Gano but could have had more after recovering a muffed punt by the Steelers’ Diontae Johnson at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line. The Giants managed only a yard, with quarterback Daniel Jones missing tight end Evan Engram for a third-down incompletion. Earlier, the Giants faced fourth and one from the Pittsburgh 40. Coach Joe Judge left his offense on the field. But the Giants committed a delay-of-game penalty and then punted, resulting in Johnson’s muff. (Giants 3, Steelers 0 with 10:34 left in the 1st quarter)
September 14, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT
Some Giants players kneel for anthem; Steelers hold banner
By Mark Maske
Both teams were on the field for the national anthem. Some Giants players were kneeling. ESPN estimated about one-third of the team’s players did so. Steelers players held a banner that said, “Steelers Against Racism.” Some Steelers players had raised fists.
September 14, 2020 at 6:21 PM EDT
What to watch for during Giants-Steelers on Monday night
By Mark Maske
A “Monday Night Football” doubleheader gets underway at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., with the Giants hosting the Steelers with no fans in attendance.
Ben Roethlisberger makes his return for the Steelers after missing almost all of last season because of an elbow injury. The Steelers struggled and missed the playoffs with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges filling in. Now Roethlisberger aims to prove he still can be an elite quarterback, at age 38 and coming off surgery to have three torn flexor tendons in his elbow reattached. He'' try to get the Steelers back into contention as he seeks a third career Super Bowl ring.
Joe Judge makes his NFL head coaching debut for the Giants, having been hired from Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots staff to replace the fired Pat Shurmur. Judge’s no-nonsense approach was evident during training camp, and the Giants are in need of a shake-up after missing the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons. His offensive coordinator is Jason Garrett, the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Daniel Jones begins his first full season as a starter after taking over for two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning last season. It’s up to Garrett to get the most out of Jones and tailback Saquon Barkley.