PITTSBURGH (AP) – Hard to blame this on Terrell Owens.

The Philadelphia Eagles got off to a terrible start following a disruptive week of camp that led to Owens’ one-week banishment for bad behavior, letting the Steelers score the first two times they touched the ball Monday night in Pittsburgh’s 38-31 exhibition victory.

The Steelers scored on an interception return – of Donovan McNabb’s first pass of the preseason – a punt return and a kickoff return, a trifecta of return touchdowns no NFL team has accomplished in a game that counted. Luckily for the NFC champion Eagles this one didn’t, as they fell behind 14-0, 21-7 and 28-10 before rallying to make it close in the second half with reserves on the field for both teams.

The Eagles’ first-team offense outplayed Pittsburgh’s, except for Willie Williams’ 10-yard interception return touchdown with 12 seconds gone, but that 14-0 deficit with only 2:05 elapsed was too much to overcome with the starters playing just over a quarter.

Ricardo Colclough returned the Eagles’ first punt 66 yards to score, an uncharacteristic mistake for a John Harbaugh-coached special teams unit that is usually among the NFL’s best.

To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Ike Taylor ran back a kickoff 100 yards early in the second quarter to make it 21-7 and give the Steelers twice as many kick return touchdowns in a 19-minute span than they had all last season.

Just before that, Eagles coach Andy Reid allowed McNabb to stay out long enough in the second quarter to throw an 8-yard scoring pass to L.J. Smith, finishing off a mistake-free, 70-yard scoring drive that covered 14 plays.

The Steelers’ offense figured to get an emotional lift from wide receiver Hines Ward’s decision to end his 15-day holdout and report just two hours before kickoff, though he didn’t play. Ward, who reported without getting the reworked contract he is seeking, was among the first players off the bench to celebrate Taylor’s return score.

McNabb’s numbers – 14-of-19 for 132 yards, a touchdown and an interception – were acceptable given he was working without either of his starting wide receivers, the absent Owens and Todd Pinkston, who is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Owens is due back in camp Wednesday after being sent home by Reid last week.

With the Eagles on offense most of the first quarter, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spent more time on the field at halftime accepting his team rookie of the year award than he did during the game, finishing 2-of-4 for 13 yards. Jerome Bettis, who figures to play little in the preseason with Duce Staley (knee surgery) out for at least a month, carried three times for 7 yards.

Ryan Moats, fourth on the Eagles’ depth chart at running back, scored on runs of 3 and 6 yards in the third quarter with Mike McMahon at quarterback.

Notes: Neither team had a running back gain more than 15 yards in the first half. … Neither Taylor nor Colclough, who are competing for time at cornerback, has scored in a regular season game. … Eagles LB Greg Richmond had surgery Monday to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. … The Steelers’ starting offense accounted for 29 yards during its only possession.

AP-ES-08-15-05 2331EDT

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