Mike Tomlin won't have much to remember from this one, and he could only give thanks it didn't count. Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger also had forgettable showings on a scoreless night for the Green Bay and Pittsburgh starting offenses.
Neither Roethlisberger nor Favre did much as the Packers' and Steelers' regulars were shut out in little less than a quarter's playing time, with backup Aaron Rodgers throwing a touchdown pass and leading two other scoring drives in Green Bay's 13-9 exhibition victory Saturday night.
Rodgers, 18-of-27 for 168 yards, produced the Packers' only touchdown by ending a 71-yard drive on their opening possession of the second half with a 3-yard scoring pass to Carlyle Holiday, who slipped behind safety Anthony Smith in the end zone. Mason Crosby kicked a 52-yard field goal later in the third quarter to make it 13-9, after starting kicker Dave Rayner made a 32-yarder to end the first half.
"The one worry, I guess, I had coming in was their pressure," said Rodgers, who, like the Steelers' Charlie Batch, had more success against backups than the starting QBs did. "I felt like we handled it really well. The second team, I thought, gave me time and the receivers made some plays. I had some bad throws I'd like to have back."
Favre did, too.
"The third down production wasn't very good," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's fundamentals."
Tomlin, coaching at Heinz Field for the first time as only the third Steelers head coach in 38 years, did what predecessors Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll did by losing his first preseason home game. Tomlin was animated and enthused, slapping hands and clapping loudly just before the opening kickoff, discarding the all-black look he's had throughout training camp by wearing khaki slacks with his black coaching shirt.
Then Tomlin found out why the preseason can be so unpredictable as his starting offense, which has been ahead of the defense so far in camp, lost a fumble and punted on its only two possessions. The Steelers' special teams weren't much better as Green Bay's Michael Montgomery overpowered snapper Greg Warren to block Jeff Reed's extra point after Pittsburgh's only touchdown and a 45-yard Cedrick Wilson punt return was called back for holding.
"I don't like coming out on the short side, but the positive side is this will give us an edge going into next week," Tomlin said.
McCarthy, a native Pittsburgher who once worked in his father's tavern near a steel mill, returned home for the first time as an NFL head coach and left a winner before dozens of friends and family members. But he had to be concerned with the inefficiency of his starting offense.
"We've got a lot of positive things to build off and we've got plenty of things to work on," McCarthy said. "Offensively, I think everything that happened out there from a negative standpoint is fixable."
Favre played in Pittsburgh for the only the second time in his 17-season career, and probably isn't eager for a return visit. McCarthy, intent on developing some continuity on his offense, allowed Favre to play four series, but the Packers went three plays-and-out on each, with Favre going 2-of-7 for seven yards.
Pittsburgh's starting defense has allowed only 29 yards and one first down during minimal playing time in two preseason games.
"We got after them a little bit," defensive end Aaron Smith said.
Roethlisberger, so sharp last Sunday in leading a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive during his only series in a 20-7 Hall of Fame game win over New Orleans, completed both of his passes for 14 yards while playing two series. But Cullen Jenkins stripped him of the ball and fell on the fumble on a third-and-5 play from Green Bay's 36 on Pittsburgh's opening drive, and the second possession stalled at the Steelers' 38. The Steelers ran both series out of a no-huddle formation.
"We really didn't get into a rhythm," Roethlisberger said. "That's kind of tough when you're playing only two series. We weren't out there as much as we'd normally like, but we were at the point where we had to come out."
With backups on the field for both sides, the Steelers scored on Batch's 41-yard scoring pass to Walter Young a play after he was sacked by Jenkins for an 8-yard loss. Reed's extra point was blocked, though he kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 9-0 late in the first half following Batch's 49-yard completion to Santonio Holmes. Batch was 3-of-5 for 97 yards.
"We like where we're going," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "The second group, they went right down and scored. Santonio came up with a huge play."
To Tomlin, that was the highlight.
"We got some big plays, and you've got to do that to be a dynamic offense," he said.