PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch threw two touchdown passes and the defending Super Bowl champions led the Miami Dolphins 14-10 at halftime of the NFL's season-opening game Thursday night.
Batch, subbing for Ben Roethlisberger, had scoring passes of 27 yards to Nate Washington and 7 yards to Hines Ward. He was 7-for-15 for 66 yards with no interceptions. Roethlisberger missed the game after surgery Sunday to remove his appendix.
Ward's touchdown reception came with 1:49 to play under the goalposts and was the first of the season for the Super Bowl's most valuable player. It capped a seven-play, 77-yard drive that immediately answered a 2-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Brown that tied the game at 7 for Miami.
The Pittsburgh drive was kept alive by a 23-yard pass interference penalty on Andre Goodman on third-and-7 from the Miami 30. Goodman was starting only because of an ankle injury to Travis Daniels.
Washington's first regular-season career catch accounted for the game's first score on the second play of the second quarter. Washington, a second-year player, had one reception during the playoffs last season. His score was in the front corner of the right side of the end zone on a third-and-2 play.
Olindo Mare made a 26-yard field goal with 32 seconds left in the half.
Miami wide receiver Marty Booker left the game with a head injury and his return to the contest was questionable.
The Dolphins' touchdown came two plays after Wes Welker's 47-yard punt return to the Pittsburgh 15.
Daunte Culpepper was 11-for-20 for 143 yards in his Miami debut. Culpepper, who missed the final nine games of last season after sustaining a knee injury and was traded from the Minnesota Vikings in March, completed passes to six different receivers — but none to star wideout Chris Chambers.
Neither team established much of a running game until the Steelers' Willie Parker had a 32-yard run with about three minutes to go in the half. Other than that, the teams combined for 50 yards rushing. Brown gained only 9 yards on eight carries, while Parker totaled 57 yards on 12 carries.
The Dolphins had 148 yards of total offense and were 1-for-7 on third-down conversions; the Steelers had 137 yards and were 2-for-7 on third downs.
Joey Porter sacked Culpepper deep in Miami territory midway through the first quarter. It was the 54th sack of the linebacker's career, moving him past Greg Lloyd into fifth place on the Steelers' all-time list.
The game was preceded by more than 40 minutes of festivities, as has been recent tradition for the NFL's Thursday opener. The Steelers staged a ceremony celebrating each of their five Super Bowl championships, concerts were held at Heinz Field and in Miami, and downtown Pittsburgh was illuminated by fireworks and a light show.
Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, was involved in a motorcycle accident in June, but had made a complete recovery.