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Steelers' offensive starters go without a touchdown - again

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin played his offensive starters longer than planned Saturday night against Washington, the entire first half, and he still didn't see what he wanted.

Namely, some points from guys named Ben, Willie and Hines, and not a second-line kicker named Connor Hughes.

The Steelers' regulars went without a touchdown for the second game in a row during their 12-10 exhibition victory over Washington on Saturday night, a game that wasn't very satisfying or productive for either team. The Redskins lost quarterback Jason Campbell to a knee injury, probably for a couple of weeks, and the Steelers simply didn't do much when they had the ball.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played four series, or one more than in the first two preseason games combined. He was 8-of-12 for 87 yards yet the Steelers still didn't move the ball, partly because Willie Parker was limited to four yards on four carries in his first playing time of the preseason.

The Steelers' offensive inefficiency was similar to that of their previous game, a 13-9 loss to Green Bay when they did nothing during Roethlisberger's two series. Of course, it's hard to settle into much of a rhythm when the series don't last long and the starters are out by halftime. Hines Ward, for example, had four catches Saturday but averaged only five yards per catch.

"Like to see him (Roethlisberger) perform better, like to see the offense perform better, but that was a charged-up defense," Tomlin said. "On a positive note, we moved the ball down the field and kind of changed the ebb and flow of the game ... to get a field goal before the end of the first half."

All the Steelers got were field goals, one by Jeff Reed before halftime and three by Hughes after the break. Still, it may be too soon for Tomlin to get worried the offense won't be there when the season starts Sept. 9 at Cleveland.

Roethlisberger drove the offense 80 yards in six plays for a touchdown in his only playing time Aug. 5 against New Orleans, but has produced only one field goal in six possessions since. Roethlisberger will get more time Sunday against Philadelphia to sort out the offense, which figures to be much more productive when Parker regains his game legs after being out of camp for two weeks with a knee injury.

"I haven't got hit in a long time so it was normal, but I had to get my body acclimated to a hit," said Parker, who ran for 1,494 yards last season with a pair of 200-yard games. "Once I got my first hit, I was ready to go. My body's all right. I'm ready to go."

The kicking game was a strength as the kickers made all four field goal attempts, though none was longer than 28 yards, and rookie Dan Sepulveda averaged 48.5 yards on four punts.

"The big thing that I like about this football team is when we identify problems, we make them disappear, i.e. field-goal protection and special teams, which showed up in a big way," Tomlin said.

Tomlin was referring to the sub-par blocking on kicking plays that led to a missed field goal against the Saints and a blocked extra point against Green Bay.

"Our punter and our punt coverage kept us in it early. There wasn't a lot going well except that we were netting 50 and 60 yards (per punt)," Tomlin said.

Because the Steelers don't play again until the national TV home game against Philadelphia, Tomlin will stay with a regular-season practice schedule this week. The Steelers broke camp Friday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and will stage the final two weeks of preseason practice at their training complex in Pittsburgh.

Notes: The Steelers had no significant injuries.

» Second-round draft pick LaMarr Woodley got his first sack.

» The Steelers will go more than a week without a game, then will play two games in five days against the Eagles and Carolina (Aug. 30).

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