By TOM CANAVAN
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers may be fine without the suspended Ben Roethlisberger for the start of the season.
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, suspended for the opening six games of the regular season by commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, was solid in his first game since the suspension was announced.
He completed six of eight passes for 76 yards and an interception and led the Steelers on a 13-play, 58-yarddrive that lasted seven-plus minutes and ended in a 26-yard field goal by Jeff Reed.
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.
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.
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.
Andre Brown got the Giants’ other touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run that survived a review. Lawrence Tynes made the score respectable with a 43-yard field goal with 5:49 to go.
Bomar, who has never taken a snap in a regular-season game, finished 13 of 26 for 167 yards and one interception.
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.
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.
The game had a feisty start. Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor were ejected after the fourth play from scrimmage for throwing punches after a running play.
Giants running back D.J. Ware and safety Sha’reff Rashad left the game with concussions.
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