The battle of the towels was fought to a soggy draw. The Pittsburgh Steelers first-team offense scored a touchdown without Ben Roethlisberger. And the Washington Redskins managed to get their first points of the preseason, albeit with the help of a fake punt and a fourth-string quarterback.
Rookie Chase Daniel, fighting the odds to earn a roster spot, threw two touchdown passes long after the starters had left the game, overcoming another difficult night for Washington's first-team offense in Saturday's 17-13 win over Pittsburgh.
Willie Parker had a 3-yard touchdown run for the Steelers, whose starting defense looked in regular season form on a goal line stand on the opening drive. Pittsburgh limited Washington's Jason Campbell to one completion in a little more than one quarter of play.
With Roethlisberger watching from the sideline _ unable to play after a teammate stepped on his Achilles' tendon during practice this week _ Charlie Batch and the Pittsburgh starters played the first three drives before giving way to the backups early in the second quarter.
Batch was 5 for 14 for 63 yards, and Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward made nice catches on a 50-yard drive capped by the scoring run from Parker, who missed last week's game with back spasms. The touchdown was celebrated by thousands of Terrible Towels waved by Steelers fans who again found plenty of prime seats at the Redskins' stadium.
The Terrible Towels were a dominant part of the scene last year when Pittsburgh beat Washington on a Monday night in the regular season. For this game, the Redskins retaliated by distributing 50,000 "Redskins Rally towels" _ resulting in alternating waves of yellow and white throughout the game. The towels also served a practical purpose: Heavy rains fell for much of the first quarter.
Nearly as disconcerting for the Redskins was last week's 23-0 loss at Baltimore, a tough result even for an exhibition game. The starting offense didn't fare much better against the Steelers: Campbell went 1-for-7 for 10 yards, although Clinton Portis had a decent 26 yards on five carries in his 2009 preseason debut.
"We kind of joke that we're the worst preseason defense in America," said Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, knowing that nothing is further from the truth, "so right now we are just trying to get better."
The lack of Redskins offense wasn't for lack of trying. Coach Jim Zorn seemed bent on scoring, no matter the method. The first play from scrimmage was a deep pass to Malcolm Kelly, broken up by Troy Polamalu. After two more incompletions, Zorn called for a fake punt to keep the drive alive. Upback Rock Cartwright ran for 15 yards, and the Redskins turned primarily to Portis to move the ball to the 2 yard line before Keyaron Fox stopped Ladell Betts on third-and-1. Rather than go for the touchdown on fourth down, Zorn sent on Shaun Suisham to kick a 20-yard field goal.
"We got to get a touchdown and finish a drive," Portis said. "If we have another big drive, of course we have to finish. We cannot get stopped at the inch line and come up with three points."
Perhaps hoping to give his quarterback some encouragement, Zorn called Campbell's performance "very good."
"He is doing a great job on his decision-making," Zorn said.
Nearly all the starters for both teams were gone a few minutes into the second quarter. Jeff Reed increased Pittsburgh's lead with a 34-yard field goal, and his competition, Piotr Czech, added a 41-yard field goal in the third.
But the second half belonged to Daniel, the undrafted rookie from Missouri who placed fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a junior. He hit rookie Marko Mitchell for a 3-yard touchdown and Fred Davis for an 18-yard score. He's trying to win the No. 3 job over Colt Brennan, who threw an interception for the second straight week.
NOTES: Redskins injuries: RB Betts (back strain) and FB Mike Sellers (bruised right knee). ... Steelers injuries: OL Jeremy Parquet (rib) and QB Dennis Dixon (right shoulder). ... Pittsburgh's LG Chris Kemoeatu also missed the game with a rib injury, and RB Mewelde Moore remained out with a hamstring injury.