TORONTO -- Trent Edwards might not know all the words to O, Canada, just yet, but the quarterback sure hit all the right notes in helping the Buffalo Bills make a successful debut in their new northern home away from home.
Shaking off a sluggish performance in the Bills' preseason opener last week, Edwards was near-perfect in two series, going 9-for-11 for 104 yards and two touchdowns, in Buffalo's 24-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
It happened at Toronto's Rogers Centre, and allowed the Bills to make a strong first impression in kicking off their five-year, eight-game series in Canada's largest city and financial capital.
The small-market franchise has adopted the city as its second home to generate additional revenue. The Bills will become the NFL's first franchise to begin playing an annual regular-season game outside the United States when they face AFC East rival Miami at Toronto on Dec. 7.
On Thursday, all that was missing was Edwards singing the national anthem to make the "Northern Exposure" outing complete.
"Well, I don't know all the words to that song, but I'll say this: We're very excited just in the fact that we feel we improved off last week's performance," Edwards said, referring to a forgettable outing in which he went 1-of-5 for 18 yards in a 17-14 loss at Washington last weekend.
Against the Steelers, Edwards overcame adversity, three times converting third-down situations, including a 22-yard scamper up the middle to erase a third-and-11 deep in Bills territory. He showed he could go deep, opening the game with a 33-yard pass to Lee Evans. And Edwards showed great touch in hitting tight end Robert Royal for both scores, including a 13-yarder to cap an 11-play, 90-yard drive.
Of those 90 yards, Edwards accounted for 79.
"Polished. He seemed very very polished," Barnes said. "It almost wasn't really a surprise because you see him do it in practice, and he came out and had such a command over the offense. It's a good feeling."
The Bills sealed the win when rookie first-round draft pick Leodis McKelvin scored on an electric 95-yard kickoff return immediately after Pittsburgh cut it to 17-14 on Rashard Mendenhall's 6-yard run
The Steelers (1-1) were inconsistent, lacking finish on both offense and defense in suffering their first loss in four preseason trips north of the border.
Leftwich completed his first attempt, a 24-yarder over the middle to Nate Washington, but then proved inconsistent, looking like someone who had only three days to pick up the Steelers offense.
The former Jacksonville starter finished 5-of-11 for 41 yards during six series.
"I got my feet wet," said Leftwich, who made his first on-field appearance since losing the starting job in Atlanta to Joey Harrington following a 31-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 18. "As comfortable as you can feel with two days (of practice), I think some good things happened, though."
Leftwich did acknowledge he had to ask Mendenhall about how a play went.
"He sat there and just smiled and we laughed about it. But those things happen," Leftwich said.
Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged he put Leftwich in a tough situation this week.
"I think it was a nice start for him. We'll see where it goes," Tomlin said.
The announced attendance of 48,434 was about 5,000 short of capacity, and considered a disappointment for series organizers, who are paying the Bills an average $9.75 million per game to show the NFL that Toronto can be home to a permanent franchise. Steep ticket prices, ranging from $75 to $575, didn't help. Hours before the game, fans were purchasing tickets with a $575 face value for as little as $90.
|Marshawn Lynch, who finishes with 25 yards on five carries, tries to get by LB Larry Foote. (US Presswire)|
|Buffalo (1-1-0) «||7||7||10||0||24|
PIT - Pass: B. Roethlisberger (9-11, 142), Rec: D. Baker (3-57)|
BUF - Pass: T. Edwards (9-11, 104), Rec: L. Evans (3-55)
|TD||Robert Royal, 7 Yd pass from Trent Edwards (Rian Lindell kick is good), 5:03. Drive: 10 plays, 67 yards in 4:55.|
|TD||Robert Royal, 13 Yd pass from Trent Edwards (Rian Lindell kick is good), 9:43. Drive: 11 plays, 90 yards in 6:43.|
|TD||Santonio Holmes, 40 Yd pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick is good), 6:26. Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards in 3:17.|
|FG||Rian Lindell 43 Yd, 9:33. Drive: 9 plays, 45 yards in 5:27.|
|TD||Rashard Mendenhall, 6 Yd run (Jeff Reed kick is good), 1:51. Drive: 5 plays, 18 yards in 2:33.|
|TD||Leodis McKelvin, 95 Yd kick return (Rian Lindell kick is good), 1:38.|
|TD||Dennis Dixon, 47 Yd run (Jeff Reed kick is good), 4:31. Drive: 4 plays, 56 yards in 2:20.|
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