After suffering their worst loss since 1989 at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers responded by decimating the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14 in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, much to the delight of the man in charge.
"We talked quite a bit leading up to [Sunday's] game about the opportunity to respond to a negative performance," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "I thought the guys answered that challenge."
Ben Roethlisberger paced the Steelers with 300 yards and five touchdown passes while Antonio Brown hauled in a pair of touchdowns over the NFL's premier interception machine, Marcus Peters. Cameron Heyward and Vince Williams, meanwhile, held down the defense with three sacks and 14 solo tackles, respectively.
Pittsburgh's stars were far from the only contributors to Pittsburgh's success last weekend, as first-time starters Jordan Dangerfield and B.J. Finney - who replaced Robert Golden and Ramon Foster - performed, as Tomlin puts it, "above the line."
"Jordan answered the call," Tomlin said in regards to Dangerfield. "His tackling was consistent, he wasn't out of place, and he had high energy. You are talking about a guy who was a two- or three-year practice squad player, to a special teamer, and now getting an opportunity to show a few things on defense."
Tomlin was equally impressed with Finney's performance.
"I thought he did an outstanding job for us in his first start," Tomlin said. "In the passing and running game."
With Finney manning the right side of the offensive line, Le'Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries in his first game since last November. Moreover, the Steelers surrendered only two sacks, neither of which were attributable to Finney.
Pittsburgh also benefitted from another strong Artie Burns performance, as the rookie cornerback defended a pair of passes, including one that would have gone for a Chiefs touchdown.
"[Burns] is continuing to make up a lot of ground that he missed by missing camp with an injury," Tomlin said. "He's going through the process of growth and development and proving that he's capable."
Burns, despite playing fewer than 50 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps in Weeks 1 and 2, has already defended four passes this season, which is on par with the likes of Malcolm Butler, Sean Smith, Darius Slay and many other starting cornerbacks. In other words, teams are testing Burns fairly regularly; more often than not, though, Burns answers the challenge.
The Steelers and their young contributors will have the opportunity to keep their hot streak alive this Sunday when the New York Jets travel to Heinz Field. Pittsburgh is 3-1 in its last four games against the Jets, though they did drop the most recent meeting to a Mike Vick-led Jets team in 2014.