By Melissa Isaacson
Tribune staff reporter
August 13, 1999
You make the call.
Actually, the replay official did in reversing a safety after Pittsburgh's block of a Todd Sauerbrun punt and calling it a touchdown to give the Steelers a first-quarter lead Friday night. They needed no help after that.
In the preseason opener for Pittsburgh and the second tuneup for the Bears, the Steelers, playing without Jerome Bettis, were clearly closer to regular-season form, beating the Bears 30-23 at Three Rivers Stadium.
This was to have been the first good look at rookie quarterback Cade McNown, who was in for eight series over the second and third quarters after making a token appearance last week. If any conclusions are to be drawn, it is that he should benefit by playing with the first unit.
And he is indeed a rookie.
"I can only say I'm glad we're not starting next week," Bears coach Dick Jauron said.
Playing much of the time in a torrential rain, McNown was 10 for 21 for 123 yards with one interception. At least four of his incompletions were eminently catchable, including what would have been a 41-yarder to Marcus Robinson, who was unable to keep both feet inbounds.
McNown was also sacked on third and 13 from the Bears' 18 when second-year tackle Chad Overhauser badly missed his man.
But on his first series, McNown's mistake was all his own as he scrambled on a play-action, then fired into the arms of cornerback Deshea Townsend, 8 yards downfield and pinned on the sideline along with intended target Macey Brooks.
McNown did engineer one impressive drive, a nine-play, 59-yard march that lasted 3:55 of the third quarter and culminated in a 36-yard field goal by Sauerbrun, still filling in for place-kicker Jeff Jaeger. McNown completed 4 of 6 attempts on the drive, including a 22-yarder to Alonzo Mayes, a 17-yarder to Macey Brooks and a 14-yard screen pass to running back Jim Finn.
But several passes, including some completions, were ill-timed, and McNown fumbled and recovered one center exchange from Casey Weigmann.
Starter Shane Matthews threw the Bears' only touchdown pass, a 71-yard completion to Curtis Conway, who did most of the work after catching the ball about 11 yards downfield at the Steelers' 40 and taking advantage of a downfield block by Bobby Engram.
But Matthews--5 of 7 for 85 yards--converted just one third down, on a pass-interference call, and threw directly into coverage and to a waiting Townsend, who returned the interception 45 yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 21-13 lead second-quarter lead.
Moses Moreno, fighting for the third and last quarterback spot, led the Bears on a nine-play, 60-yard drive in the fourth quarter, scoring himself on a 1-yard plunge to pull them to within 30-23.
James Allen returned the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and Marty Booker had a 62-yard return in the second quarter, but the Bears' special teams were otherwise inadequate.
Sauerbrun had a punt blocked, Matthews failed to get the snap down for Sauerbrun's PAT after Conway's touchdown, Chris Canty fumbled a punt, and the Steelers had punt returns of 34, 20 and 28 yards in the second quarter alone.
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