The Pittsburgh Steelers kept insisting during a listless preseason the intensity would be there once the calendar flipped to September and the games started to count.
The calendar flipped.
The Steelers still flopped.
Sloppy at the start and injury-ravaged at the finish, Pittsburgh opened with a dismal 16-9 home loss to Tennessee on Sunday that exposed a variety of flaws that may take weeks for coach Mike Tomlin to address.
The offense managed just 32 yards rushing and 195 total yards. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times.
And while the defense kept Tennessee under wraps, it still allowed a pair of lengthy scoring drives and failed to produce a turnover. The Titans’ Jackie Battle ran for a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Rob Bironas kicked three field goals, and Chris Johnson added 70 clock-chewing yards on the ground as Tennessee snapped Pittsburgh’s 10-game winning streak in home openers.
Even worse for Pittsburgh, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey ripped up his right knee and linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps. Both players are likely out for the season.
‘‘We’ve got a lot of work to do,’’ Tomlin said. ‘‘Nobody cares about our problems. They’re glad we’ve got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere.’’
Pouncey left in the first quarter when teammate David DeCastro fell on his right leg at the end of a running play. Foote left in the fourth quarter after Johnson slipped through his grasp.
Roethlisberger completed 21 of 33 passes for 191 yards and an interception to go with a garbage-time touchdown.
In just his second NFL season, Andrew Luck now has eight fourth-quarter comebacks. The Indianapolis quarterback threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns against visiting Oakland and rallied the Colts by scoring on a 19-yard scramble with 5:20 left.
Luck completed his first 11 passes and finished 18 of 23. He led the Colts to touchdowns on their first two possessions, and ran through the Raiders’ defense for the deciding score on a third-and-4 play.
Oakland started Terrelle Pryor at quarterback and he went 19 of 29 for 217 yards and one TD and set the Raiders’ single-game rushing record for a QB with 112 yards on 13 carries.
But Pryor also threw two interceptions in the red zone, the second coming with 25 seconds left to seal Oakland’s fate.
Sebastian Janikowski’s 48-yard field goal in the third quarter cut Indy’s lead to 14-10, and Pryor gave Oakland the lead when he hooked up with Denarius Moore on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 11:09 left.
Reggie Bush turned a short pass into a 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter and finished with 191 yards of offense to help host Detroit pull away from Minnesota. The free agent addition ran 21 times for 90 yards and caught four passes for 101 yards.
The Lions’ Matthew Stafford was 28 of 43 for 357 yards with two TDs, including a 1-yard lob to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 6:47 left.
Adrian Peterson ran for a 78-yard TD on his first carry and scored on a 4-yard run to give Minnesota a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. But Peterson finished with just 93 yards and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Jay Cutler passed to Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead, 19-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Chicago rally past sloppy Cincinnati at home and giving Marc Trestman a victory in his first game as Bears coach.
The Bengals led by 11 in the third quarter and were ahead, 21-17, early in the fourth when Tim Jennings jarred the ball from Mohamed Sanu following a reception and made the recovery. Chicago took over at its 19 and got an 8-yard run from Matt Forte on fourth and inches at the Bengals 27. Cutler then found Marshall in the front corner of the end zone, giving Chicago a 24-21 lead with 7:58 remaining.
Kansas City was never threatened in Andy Reid’s debut as coach. Alex Smith threw two early scoring passes and the Chiefs limited host Jacksonville to 178 total yards. Jamaal Charles ran for 77 yards and a TD before leaving with a quadriceps injury, but that was about the only negative for the Chiefs.
Gus Bradley’s first game as an NFL coach was a disaster. The Jaguars’ only points came on a blocked punt that bounced through the end zone in the first quarter. Among the lowlights after that: Blaine Gabbert completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions and was sacked six times before leaving with a thumb injury, Bryan Anger set a franchise record with 11 punts, and Jacksonville advanced past its 36-yard line just once.
Ryan Tannehill passed for 272 yards and a touchdown as Miami dealt host Cleveland its ninth straight season-opening loss. Tannehill didn’t get any boost from the running game as the Dolphins were held to 20 yards on 23 carries.
Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions and was sacked six times in Rob Chudzinski’s debut as Browns coach. Weeden finished 26 of 53 for 289 yards and one TD.
Greg Zuerlein’s fourth field goal of the game was a 48-yarder with 40 seconds left that completed host St. Louis’s fourth-quarter comeback over Arizona. Tight end Jared Cook caught two touchdown passes and had a key reception on the drive that led to Zuerlein’s winner.
Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards, including a 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse as Seattle survived in Charlotte, N.C. The Seahawks managed just two field goals before Kearse beat cornerback Josh Thomas down the right sideline for the go-ahead score with 10:13 left.