PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent 25 minutes knocking around Alex Smith.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ new quarterback responded with 5 minutes of nearly flawless football, the kind that provided a glimmer of what could be for a player — and a team — in the midst of rebuilding.
Smith guided the Chiefs to a pair of scoring drives late in the first half in a 26-20 overtime victory over the Steelers on Saturday night, sprinting 38 yards to set up a field goal then completing 6 of 7 passes on a 72-yard touchdown drive that tied it just before the starters traded their helmets for baseball caps.
“Felt good out there,” Smith said. “We’ve had limited 2-minte work just by the nature of being together such a limited time, especially in a game situation. So I thought it was great work for us. We started to get some ‘chunk’ plays.”
Smith ended his night — and probably his preseason — with a 5-yard strike to Junior Hemingway that earned Smith a draw with Pittsburgh counterpart Ben Roethlisberger.
“I thought he was accurate and competitive,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said about Smith. “I thought he managed things well.”
Smith finished 17 of 24 for 158 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles ran seven times for 10 yards in his first game after spraining his right foot earlier this month. The Chiefs eventually won it on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel to Rico Richardson on the first possession of overtime.
The Steelers remained winless during the exhibition season after taking nine penalties for 98 yards. Even worse, rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones was taken to the hospital with a chest injury after being tackled following an interception in the third quarter.
The 17th overall pick in the draft lay on the turf for several moments before walking to the sideline. He sat on the bench talking to Roethlisberger before being placed on a stretcher and taken out of the stadium as a precaution.
It was a sobering sight after several encouraging signs by the Steelers.
Following a pair of largely lifeless efforts during cameos in the first two preseason contests, Roethlisberger stressed it was hardly time to panic. In the closest thing to the real thing the NFL provides in August, Roethlisberger and the Steelers responded with a decidedly more urgent tone against the Chiefs.
Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 49-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second offensive play, leading to a field goal.
“I thought we did some things great, there are some things we need to do to get better,” Brown said.
The Steelers followed it up with their first offensive touchdown since the 2012 regular season finale against Cleveland. Taking over at the Kansas City 21 after the Chiefs failed to convert a fourth-and-1, Roethlisberger turned a broken play into six points when he scrambled around long enough to find Dwyer wide open in the flat. The running back trotted into the end zone to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead.
Kansas City, which like Pittsburgh sleep-walked through the first half of the exhibition schedule, appeared headed to another dismal effort until Smith found a rhythm late in the half. The former No. 1 draft pick, sent to Kansas City to revitalize his career, took advantage of a breakdown in containment to sprint 38 yards.
Smith didn’t need to use his legs during a fabulous drive to end the half. His only incompletion during the game-tying march coming when he spiked the ball to stop the clock. He had little trouble finding Hemingway in the slot for his first touchdown pass for a team other than the San Francisco 49ers.
The two starters took the rest of the night off and probably won’t be seen again until their respective season openers.
In the final game before the first round of cuts, however, a couple of third-round picks made a compelling case they plan to stick around.
Pittsburgh wide receiver Markus Wheaton — projected as the team’s new deep threat after the departure of Mike Wallace — hauled in a 34-yard rainbow from backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski early in the third quarter.
Moments later, Kansas City’s Knile Davis provided a compelling case to return kicks after taking an “only in the preseason” shot when he fielded the ensuing kickoff a yard from the endline then raced 109 yards for a touchdown. The score continued a miserable trend for the Steelers, who have hardly been sharp on special teams under new coordinator Danny Smith.
“I’m really glad those guys picked up three block, and I was able to make something happen and keep us in the game,” Davis said.
Pittsburgh running back Felix Jones, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia on Friday, saw extensive action with rookie Le’Veon Bell (foot), Isaac Redman (stinger), LaRod Stephens-Howling (knee) all sidelined by injury. Jones returned two kickoffs for 51 yards and carried eight times for 29 yards.
“I felt like the coaches were just trying to see where I was at right now and I felt good at it,” Jones said. “I felt comfortable and I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do.”