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Steelers Rise Above Flutie, Bills


Jahine Arnold, not assured of making Pittsburgh's season-opening roster, set up the Steelers' first three scores with two long kickoff returns and a reception in a 24-13 exhibition victory over the Buffalo Bills Saturday night.

Buffalo's regulars played evenly with Pittsburgh's in Wade Phillips' return as an NFL head coach, playing to a 10-10 halftime tie as $25 million quarterback Rob Johnson hit his first seven passes.

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Johnson, who played the entire first half because he is still learning Phillips' system after being traded by Jacksonville, was 8-of-13 for 75 yards.

But the Bills' offense shut down in the second half with Doug Flutie at quarterback, managing only three points. Meanwhile, fourth-team Steelers quarterback Pete Gonzalez was leading consecutive touchdown drives.

Flutie, the 36-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner who has spent most of the 1990s playing in Canada, was frequently flushed out of the pocket to deliver hurried passes while going 6-of-12 for 44 yards.

Flutie had to scramble on his first snap, rolling out nearly 20 yards to his right to throw incomplete while nearly being sacked for a huge loss. Most of his completions were to his running backs for short gains.

Gonzalez, whose 30 touchdown passes last season for the University of Pittsburgh rank second in school history to Dan Marino's 37, was far more effective as he continued to press for a roster spot.

He was 6-of-11 for 116 yards and a 9-yard touchdown pass to rookie Hines Ward in the third quarter that put the Steelers ahead 24-10.

The possession before, Gonzalez found Arnold for 26 yards and again for 44 yards to set up George Jones' go-ahead 4-yard touchdown run only 2:58 into the second half.

Arnold also had kickoff returns of 51 and 44 yards to give the Steelers excellent field position that led to Bettis' 3-yard TD run with 1:07 left in the first quarter and Norm Johnson's 29-yard field goal.

The long kickoff returns were a turnabout for Pittsburgh's special teams, which ranked near the bottom in every return category last season even as the Steelers reached the AFC championship game.

The Steelers' offensive starters played better -- but not much longer -- than they did in last week's 0-6 loss to Tampa Bay, with Kordell Stewart going 2-of-4 for 12 yards in his only series. Bettis had six carries for 18 yards.

Mike Quinn, an NFL Europe star competing with Mike Tomczak to back up Stewart, followed Stewart and was 5-of-8 for 53 yards. Tomczak sat out for the second week in a row with a hamstring injury.

Phillips, the former Denver Broncos' coach, was the Bills' defensive coordinator before succeeding the now retired Marv Levy as coach. Levy watched from the press box as the analyst on the Bills' preseason TV network.

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