Man, it is good to watch football again. Especially, when your team is playing like the Steelers did on Sunday. Yes, there were certainly areas that need improvement, but that's true of any game, particularly week 1 games. I'll definitely acknowledge areas of potential concern, but that was a big win, and if you can't be drunk with excitement after a win like that, what are you even watching football for, right?
Before we get into the analysis, let's just acknowledge how huge that win was. As a measuring stick, the Steelers just beat one of the top teams in the league, and this isn't just a popular hype team like the Browns, this is an AFC runner up that's returning intact on both sides of the ball. The Steelers, who have been ignored or maligned all offseason just got a major statement win. Tilting the table towards a better record. As fans, we look at the schedule and there are certain games we'll let the team lose. I think for virtually everyone this was one of those games. You beat an opponent you expect to beat and you're on track for the record you expected. Stealing a win like this puts you ahead of the curve, a good place to be. Beating a likely playoff team in conference, is a huge win too. We might be looking back at this game again at the end of season, fully appreciating the tiebreaker the Steelers now have over the Bills in playoff seeding. For fans, it's just so much more fun for the long-awaited season opener to end in a W, but this was also a really significant win in several ways.
Breaking down more specific takeaways from this game, there's a lot to like too.
1. Holy Cow our pass rush is for real. PFF called the Bills tackles as one of the best tandems in the league, and they were constantly giving up pressures to the Steelers OLB's. This is without Stephon Tuitt and only blitzing on 3% of Josh Allen's dropbacks. Heck, I'm even a little scared of our pass rush; opposing QB's and OC's are going to have a lot of sleepless nights on account of these guys. Love it.
2. Is Matt Canada rubbing off on Keith Butler? Seemed like there was a ton of pre-snap motion by our OLB's. They were lining up inside off the ball, then moving to the edge just before the snap, or often just staying in the middle. If there's one thing more terrifying than having TJ Watt coming after you, it's having TJ Watt coming after you and not knowing what direction he's coming from. Love it.
3. Nice showing for Norwood, they went after him early it seemed like and then stopped. No higher praise than that.
4. James Pierre put in some varsity level reps too, including a sweet pass breakup. Pierre continues to raise the question of whether he's really a backup or actually a starter level player.
5. Cam Sutton looks like Deshea Townsend or Willie Gay. Not a fantastic athlete, but wicked smart and able to make big plays at big times as a result. That 4th down tackle for loss came after a beautiful pass breakup on the flea flicker. Don't try that trick play crap on Cam.
6. Dan Moore looked like a rookie out there. He got beat badly a few times, including the play where T. White bailed us out by defensive holding. That was a broken play because Moore got no block whatsoever.
7. It doesn't matter how good Harris is if we can't block for him. This was a wake up call for fans expecting him to be OROY or team MVP. Harris isn't going to singlehandedly resurrect our running game, and he even needs to get on the same page with Ben before he can contribute in the passing game. He deserves recognition, though, for a really nice late win in blitz pickup on that big play to Ebron, which never would've happened otherwise. He wasn't able to stop the blitzer in his tracks and got pushed almost into Ben's lap, but he was able to stay engaged and maintain enough traction to steer his guy past Ben and safely out of the play, basically like running him up the arc.
8. Classic game for Heyward, not super splashy, but he had a huge impact, fantastic FF hustling after the ball, batting passes, getting pressure. Love that guy.
9. Juju is so strong. That guy plays like he's 230 pounds at least. I don't know how many times I've seen him run through contact after the catch and it doesn't seem to even change his course, much less knock him down. He's on the sideline, and you're like "there's nothing there, even if the DB can't tackle him he can easily knock him out of bounds," and Juju just plows his way through for a gain of 5. There are a lot of TE's who go down easier than him. His play strength is just nuts, and I love it.
10. Speaking of strong WR's, just thrown Claypool the ball. Besides the fact he's on my fantasy team, the guy is a pass interference magnet, largely (pun intended) because CB's know he's just going to Moss them if they don't. Like Joe Haden said, "he's going to be a problem." Just because you have perfect coverage doesn't mean he's not going to catch it, so what can you do? Love it. Also love the block by Freiermuth on his end around.
11. Terrell Edmunds looked really good getting over the top of that deep throw. It looked like the guy was wide open and Edmunds shows up in front of him like "nah, you just thought you were open, man." Still, it also looked like maybe if he'd been playing the ball rather than the man he might've gotten the INT, story of Edmunds' life. I'll take a guy who can magically eliminate deep threats, though.
12. For the even dozen, you all know my love for my hometown boy UG3, who a lot fans thought would be cut this year. Couldn't be happier to see him with a TD saving tackle on the opening kickoff and a TD punt block return for a TD later in the game. Ocala, FL making plays in the NFL, baby!
13. And for the baker's dozen, nice catch by D. Johnson, but it's maddening to watch him and Ben continue to miscommunicate. Johnson could be almost uncoverable if he can just get on the same page with Ben, I wish he could get his head in the game.
Overall, a big win, a team win, and a fun win. Great start to the season, now let's keep that momentum rolling!
I'm calling this an all around team win, a complete game, even though the offense obviously struggled early. It's week 1 and the Bills have a really good defense,