The Pittsburgh Steelers did not look like a Super Bowl contender at all on Sunday. All three phases had major flaws that will need to be corrected this season if the Steelers are going to continue to win. It’s hard for Pittsburgh fans to watch such a talented team constantly be its own worst enemy. The Steelers finishing with 13 penalties for 144 penalty yards is a level of sloppiness that needs to be addressed quickly.
Pittsburgh Steelers Week One Gut Reactions
Offensive Line Questions
With all of the hype surrounding the Steelers offense that side of the ball was a huge disappointment on Sunday against the Browns. The offensive line was continually ineffective. Maurkice Pouncey was consistently beat in the running game. Pouncey’s fellow offensive lineman performed poorly as well with Ramon Foster and David DeCastro both looking slow and constantly allowing penetration into the Steelers backfield.
Not Enough Carries for Le’Veon Bell
This may have been a result of bad field position and blocking, but running back Le’Veon Bell, who is one of the best backs in the league, only had 10 carries on Sunday. With only 32 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards, Bell quickly turned into a non-factor in Cleveland. When the Steelers were dominating teams last season on their way to the AFC Championship game Bell was the focal point of the offense. Maybe there was some rust on Bell’s part from his extended pre-season hold out. But it honestly was hard to tell because he wasn’t afforded the running lanes that he had late last season.
Martavis Bryant was billed as a difference maker after returning to the Steelers lineup from suspension in 2016. But he was targeted just six times and only made two receptions. Bryant’s ability to stretch the field seemed non-existent on Sunday. The former Clemson standout only contributed 14 yards receiving against a Browns team that’s in the process of rebuilding.
In contrast, Antonio Brown took over the game. Ben Roethlisberger targeted Brown 11 times and Brown had 11 receptions. When it was all said and done Brown finished with 182 receiving yards, more than half of Roethlisberger’s passing yards. While Brown didn’t score a touchdown, his timely play making was the difference between the Steelers winning and losing their Week one game. The Steelers offense managed two trips into the red zone, and both came as a result of Brown’s big-play ability.
The Steelers offense went two-for-two in the redzone, scoring touchdowns on both of their trips. A feat that was made even more impressive by the fact that the offense was operating without any semblance of a reliable running game. Two timely passes from Roethlisberger to tight end Jesse James resulted in red zone touchdowns and the only fourteen points the offense could muster.
Stephon Tuitt leaving the game with a shoulder injury was bad luck, especially after he received a big contract extension earlier in the week. The Steelers defensive front is probably the best unit on Pittsburgh’s defense. While there’s depth, back up Tyson Alualu, finished the day with five tackles, if Tuitt is out for an extended time, it’ll be a major loss.
A bright spot on defense was first-round draft pick T.J. Watt. He made his presence felt by leading the team in total tackles, solo tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, passes defended, quarterback hits, and interceptions. If Watt can continue to produce at this high a level he’ll be in talks for defensive rookie of the year.
The Steelers defense did get pressure on rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer when needed. Pittsburgh finished with seven sacks, and showed the ability to rush four and still get pressure. Also, they were just as effective against the run, holding the Browns to only 57 yards rushing and a meager 2.3 yards per rush. The Browns field a veteran offensive line, and they struggled throughout the game to block the Steelers front seven.
The Steelers were hard to watch at times given their inconsistencies, and the plethora of penalties they committed. Even though they got a win, there’s a lot of issues to address if Mike Tomlin‘s team has any plans at defending their AFC North title. Cutting back on penalties, improving their third down conversion rate, and getting the running game going seem like top priorities as the team prepares for their home opener next week against the Minnesota Vikings.