Head coach makes Lions debut with 26-13 win over SteelersPosted: Saturday August 09, 2003 4:39 PM
Updated: Saturday August 09, 2003 6:29 PM
DETROIT (AP) -- Steve Mariucci is off to a winning start in Detroit.
Joey Harrington threw a touchdown pass to Scotty Anderson in the final seconds of the first half to give Detroit the lead, and the Lions beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-13 Saturday to give Mariucci a victory in his debut with the team.
Mariucci, let go from San Francisco after going 60-43 in six seasons, returned to his home state in February to replace Marty Mornhinweg, who was fired by the Lions after going 5-27 in two seasons. Mariucci drew a loud cheer when he was introduced.
"That was an experience for me," Mariucci said. "It was fun being in Ford Field. It was fun being on the sideline with this bunch, and in the locker room. It was fun having my family down for the first game and to come out with a win."
Many dismiss NFL exhibition games as meaningless, but the Lions have a different view after enduring two miserable seasons.
"I've been telling guys that it is important for us to win these preseason games," running back James Stewart said. "The way things have gone the last couple seasons, we need to show that we can win games -- even now."
While Detroit doubled Pittsburgh's score, the Lions weren't impressive against the Steelers' first-string units.
"I thought those should've been touchdowns," Burress said.
Maddox was 5-of-10 for 54 yards, with three passes for 45 yards to Burress. Jerome Bettis gained 19 yards on eight carries.
"We didn't play very well," Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher said. "That's the best way of stating it. We were very sluggish on offense and on defense."
Cowher said his first-string defense did "a pretty good job."
The Steelers' top offense drove 87 yards -- after going three possessions without a first down -- to set up Jeff Reed's field goal for a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter.
"A little shaky there at first, but we put a good drive together," Maddox said. "But we kind of hurt ourselves in the red zone."
Former Lions quarterback Charlie Batch, booed every time fans heard his name, led an 11-play drive against Detroit's first-string defense that ended with Reed's 43-yard field goal that gave Pittsburgh a 6-2 lead in the second quarter.
"I'm two years gone now so I should be far from their minds," said Batch, who finished 5-of-13 for 34 yards.
Punter John Jett was one of Detroit's assets when both teams had their best players in the game. Jett pinned the Steelers on their 2-yard line -- leading to Barrett Green's sack for a safety. He also had punts that forced the Lions to start drives on their 9 and 6.
Harrington, playing in his first game since being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat in December, was lackluster until the final drive of the first half.
At Detroit's 20-yard line with 1:46 left, Harrington showed the poise and talent the Lions envisioned when they drafted him third overall last year.
Harrington started the possession with consecutive first-down passes and later threaded a pass over one defender and in front of another to rookie David Kircus for a 22-yard gain that set up the go-ahead score.
Harrington lofted a 13-yard pass to the corner of the end zone to Anderson, who grabbed the ball away from former Lions player Chidi Iwuoma.
"It was smooth," Harrington said of the drive. "I don't want to say I was surprised, but I'm glad it went well."
Harrington completed 13 of 25 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Anderson, battling Shawn Jefferson for a spot on the roster, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD.
Receiver Charles Rogers, the second pick in the draft, did not play. Last week, he needed two stitches to close an open dislocation of his left ring finger.
Backup quarterback Mike McMahon gave the Lions a 16-6 lead with
a spinning, 1-yard run on the first drive of the second half. McMahon was 7-of-17 for 64 yards and ran for 26 yards.