PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger believes his right arm feels as good as it has at any point in his 15-year NFL career.
Maybe too good.
While the 36-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback passed for 114 yards and a touchdown in his brief preseason cameo during a 16-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, Roethlisberger admits it's the throws he didn't make that will stick with him as the reigning AFC North champions get ready for their Sept. 9 season opener at Cleveland.
"I wasn't real happy with the way I threw the ball tonight," said Roethlisberger, who completed 11 of 18 passes in three series. "I was kind of sailing some passes."
Blame it on a combination of rust and the adrenaline rush that comes when facing an opposing pass rush for the first time in eight months.
Still, there was plenty to like from Roethlisberger and the starting offense even without star wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell, including a 32-yard rainbow from Roethlisberger to former University of Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter in the first quarter for Pittsburgh's lone touchdown.
"I wanted to leave one in play for him, and I'm glad he made the play," Roethlisberger said.
New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner allowed Roethlisberger to do a little bit of everything. The Steelers dabbled in a no-huddle approach and earned at least two first downs on all three drives, and Roethlisberger managed to spread the ball around even as he tried to get a handle on his accuracy.
"A lot of guys caught passes and guys made plays," Roethlisberger said. "So when you don't have those big names out there, I like it because it showed to everybody that we can do it."
Landry Jones appears set as the primary backup behind Roethlisberger — he was 6-for-9 for 44 passing yards with an interception — and rookie Mason Rudolph was 7-for-11 for 65 passing yards. Former UT standout Josh Dobbs, in his second season in the league, did not play.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota's hot start to the preseason — he had led his team to touchdowns on two of the three drives he worked coming in — came to an abrupt halt against a defense that led the league in sacks last season. The Steelers had six sacks Saturday.
Mariota completed was 5-for-8 for 43 passing yards while playing most of the first half. He missed a wide-open Corey Davis for what would have been a long touchdown on Tennessee's opening drive, and his afternoon ended late in the second quarter when Steelers rookie safety Terrell Edmunds picked off a floater intended for Taywan Taylor.
"Should've made that throw on third down, give Corey a chance to score," Mariota said. "They busted the coverage. We should've made the most of that one."
Davis took the blame for the incompletion, calling it a "miscommunication." Either way, it was as close as Tennessee's first-string offense came to a big play.
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, the team's top two running backs, combined for 23 yards on eight carries. Tennessee's lone touchdown came on a 3-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to tight end Anthony Firkser in the fourth quarter.
"We've shown flashes of stuff we can do, we show flashes of potential, but potential means nothing," Mariota said. "You've got to go out there and continue to get better, and looking at this game, this past game, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
Titans rookie linebacker Harold Landry, in the midst of an impressive first NFL training camp after being taken in the second round of the draft, left with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return. Tennessee remains without Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker, who is out after getting hurt during a joint practice with Tampa Bay, and linebacker Brian Orakpo (shoulder) missed his third straight game.
The Steelers remain in search of a punt returner. They gave safety Cam Sutton, a second-year pro out of UT, a shot in the first half. He ended up fumbling on his first return (though it was recovered by teammate Rosie Nix) and making a fair catch on another.
The preseason wraps up Thursday with a full slate of exhibitions, including the Titans hosting the Minnesota Vikings and the Steelers welcoming the Carolina Panthers.