You know the score by now, the Steelers won their season opener over Cleveland, 21-18, on Sept. 10. Most of you probably watched the game, as I did. And I’ll bet most of you didn’t have that overwhelming feeling of excitement after watching that win. I sat there after the game for a bit and pondered what I just witnessed. I know they won, but why didn’t the feelings come across as such? Well, the more I thought about it, the more it became apparent; while the Black and Gold showed some good in the victory over the Browns, they mixed in a good bit of bad and ugly as well, making the victory seem a bit hollow.
The good, or even great, if you will, aside from the fact that the Steelers escaped with a victory, was Antonio Brown. I have long felt as though he is the best wide receiver in football and I believe that notion was further amplified with his 11 catches on 11 targets for 182 yards. Not statistically measured are the one-handed catch or the acrobatic grab he made in-between three Browns defenders. Brown is a beast and a guy this team can count on week in and week out.
TJ Watt was also fantastic in his NFL debut as he certainly exceeded my expectations. I projected a sack for the rookie but there was no way I could have predicted two sacks, an interception and seven tackles, tied for the team lead. He even shifted to the D-line for a bit to replace Stephon Tuitt when he went down.
The defense as a whole has to get credit for the amount of pressure they were able to apply to Browns rookie QB Deshone Kizer and specifically the seven sacks that pressure netted them. That’s one of the better performances they have had in a long time.
Lastly, I have to include the outlaw, Jesse James. James proved valuable in the red zone as he snagged two touchdown passes from Big Ben and I might make the case that he was the difference in the game.
It was a win but the score of 21-18 was bad. The Steelers were 9.5 point favorites and should have run away from the Browns. That didn’t happen and the Browns were in the game until the end.
The secondary allowed Kizer to pass on them far better than a rookie making his NFL debut should. He was 20-30 for 222 yards and a touchdown. I don’t find those numbers to be acceptable and I believe the Steelers should be disappointed in that output.
I’d also have to say the time of possession breakdown was poor as the Browns actually had the ball for 31 minutes compared to the 29 minutes the Steelers possessed the ball. If the Steelers played a team of quality, they would have gotten annihilated.
First and foremost, I think the most telling statistic and by far the ugliest were the penalties. In my Game Day preview here on newpittsburghcourier.com, I noted the number one key for the Steelers was to steer clear of the stupid mistakes, specifically the penalties. And what did they do? They came out and had 13 penalties for 144 yards. Many of which were the personal foul variety. I am sick and tired of the lack of discipline that this team seems to show year after year and I’d expect some changes to be made asap if this team wants to realistically contend for anything this season.
Le’Veon Bell was about as bad as he’ll ever be. I never thought I’d see the day when Bell ran for just 32 yards but he was bad. He didn’t seem as fast as he normally is, his patience didn’t resonate into him finding any last-minute holes to run through and he was a complete non-factor. I don’t think this will occur moving forward but I think this was a byproduct of him missing the entire offseason and working out on his own. I don’t believe he’s in football shape or football speed yet and it showed.