By: Michael Stiffler, @Stiffeezy_ on Twitter
Week one is in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I woke up feeling…victorious! Last night’s game was far from perfect but it has laid a good foundation for the Steelers to build upon going forward. Here are my big takeaways from the game after having a night to sleep on it.
Nerves, Nerves, Nerves
Defensively this did not exist, but for the offensive players, this was very prevalent. The offensive line got off to a very shaky start. Running the ball wasn’t working and pressure was consistently applied on Ben Roethlisberger in the first half. Roethlisberger had some cobwebs to shake off as well, seeming indecisive on some of his throws early on and hesitant in the pocket. Diontae Johnson was the one who couldn’t get out of his own head early on in the night, muffing a punt, dropping a few passes, and you could see it in his face he wasn’t all there. It wasn’t until the Steelers went into their two-minute offense at the end of the first half where they finally seemed relaxed and got into a rhythm.
Defense is Picking Up Where it Left Off
After the Johnson muffed punt, the defense had their backs against the wall as the New York Giants had first and goal from the Pittsburgh 3-yard line. Three plays later, the Giants settled for a field goal. This was a huge statement on the night as a touchdown early on would’ve gave the Giants all the momentum, but instead the defense stood tall, showing why they are considered one of the best in the NFL. The most impressive part of the night was how Saquon Barkley could not get going on the ground. The front seven was relentless on their goal of not letting Barkley beat them. Consistently, Bud Dupree could be seen chasing down Barkley from the backside and registering a tackle for loss. Tyson Alualu and Vince Williams were causing havoc up the middle helping the Steelers register 11.5 tackles for loss on the night. The biggest win on the night came at the end of a 19-play drive for the Giants where Dupree hit Daniel Jones’ elbow and Cam Heyward INTERCEPTED the pass in the endzone. Yes they had their fair share of miscues, but overall the defense consistently made Jones and the Giants offense uncomfortable.
Steelers Can’t Avoid Injuries
Mike Tomlin’s next man up mantra is going into effect early on. James Conner left the game with an ankle injury but Benny Snell was able to make his impact felt. While the Steelers struggled early on running the ball, they were able to get “Benny Snell Football” going in the second half. Snell had a career night with 19 carries for 113 yards. He showed vision, quickness, and toughness throughout the night to help Steelers fans everywhere feel comfortable with his efforts going forward if Conner misses time. That was the good, but then there was the bad too. The Steelers offensive line, who were already short handed with David DeCastro’s injury, lost Stefen Wisniewski (pec) and Zach Banner (knee) last night. While the severity of Wisniewski’s pec injury is unknown, Banner’s knee may cost him the season. Banner couldn’t walk off the field under his own power, and the look on his face was hard to stomach. Kevin Dotson and Chukwuma Okorafor filled in to finish the night, but Steeler Nation will have their concerns going forward. Tomlin and company will have their hands full solidifying the offensive line for the rest of the season.
Ben Roethlisberger is Different
Roethlisberger had a very good night for his first action back. He finished with over 200 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. You can say he is back to normal, but is he? Physically he may be better now than in the past 5-10 years, but his demeanor is what has truly changed. Even though the offense struggle early on, he didn’t have the grimace on his face that Steelers fans are used to seeing. When Johnson dropped a beautifully thrown pass in triple coverage or blocked instead of running a route, Roethlisberger seemed more encouraging in the young receiver than disgruntled. He didn’t shy away from Johnson but continued to target him often (10 targets to end the night). So often he has been criticized by the media for not being a leader, for throwing receivers under the bus, but this year is different. He consoled Banner on the sideline when the newly named right tackle was broken. In the post game interview on ESPN, he spoke with a new excitement thanking the stellar defensive effort, the young receivers, his offensive line, and his faith. He is different. He is becoming the leader everyone expected him to be.
What are your thoughts on the Steelers game? Drop a comment below!