The Pittsburgh Steelers open up the regular season against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, as well as quarterback Tom Brady, who had a four-game suspension overturned in recent weeks.
The Steelers will be without three starters on offense. Center Maurkice Pouncey is on the short-term injured reserve list with a fractured fibula, while running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant are each serving separate suspensions.
For the Patriots, starting running back LeGarrette Blount is also serving a suspension, while center Bryan Stork was placed on short-term IR with a concussion. Starting right guard Ryan Wendell is a surprise inactive. A full list of the inactive players on both sides:
QB Landry Jones
WR Sammie Coates
TE Jesse James
C/G Chris Hubbard
CB Ross Cockrell
DE L.T. Walton
DE Caushaud Lyons
G Ryan Wendell
RB Travaris Cadet
CB Justin Coleman
S Tavon Wilson
LB Rufus Johnson
DE Trey Flowers
DT Khyri Thornton
The Patriots won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. Dri Archer is back to receive, but the ball bounces off the crossbar. Ben Roethlisberger and the offense take the field. DeAngelo Williams found space along the right side and spun out of first contact for an 18-yard gain. A screen pass for Antonio Brown was good for nine yards. On second and one, Williams showed patience up the middle to move the chains.
Heath Miller caught his first pass of the season for 14 yards, which looks like a run-pass option. From the 35-yard line, Williams picked up another 111 yards. Brown looked to throw the ball, but chose to eat it for a sack instead of attempt a pass and risk a turnover. On second and 18, Marcus Gilbert was flagged for a hold.
Now on second and 28 from the 42, Will Johnson picked up six yards. On third and 22, after an injury timeout for a downed Patriots lineman, Roethlisberger found Miller to pick up around 10 yards and get into field goal range. Josh Scobee‘s first field goal attempt with the Steelers went wide right from 44 yards out.
With the defense starting in their base, we see Will Allen starting at safety and Antwon Blake manning the left cornerback spot. Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats are the unsurprising starters at outside linebacker.
From the 34, Brady found Julian Edelman in a five wide look for a first down near midfield, but a personal foul on Nate Solder punched Jones for a personal foul. On first and 12, Dion Lewis was able to get the first down. Lewis forced two missed tackles on Jones and Ryan Shazier for another first down.
Brady threw his first incomplete pass in the direction of Rob Gronkowski as the cornerbacks came up to press the pass catchers. On second down, Brady overthrew Danny Amendola for what should have been a big gain after William Gay was picked. On third down, Bud Dupree was able to chase down Brady for the tackle to force a punt. Brown fair caught the ball deep in Steelers territory.
Williams fought his way for six yards to the 13-yard line on first down, but lost a yard on second down. On third and five, Brown somehow wrestled the ball away from the defender for not only the catch, but the first down. Kelvin Beachum was flagged for illegal formation, set off the line. On first and 15, Brown caught an inside slant for a short gain. On second down, Roethlisberger was sacked, after a while, by Dont’a Hightower. Cody Wallace was beat up the middle. On third and 18, Miller caught his second pass, but for 17 yards. Jordan Berry came on for his first punt of his career, boomed deep, with a block in the back call added another 10 yards to the end of the punt.
From the 10, James Light was able to bounce around for eight yards on first down. Mike Mitchell up at the line looked to be in on the tackle on second down, setting up third and one. Brady ran a sneak on the play for a first down.
From the 20, Shazier showed his speed to get to the edge and contact the runner, but didn’t make the tackle. Solder was flagged for holding. Back to the 10, Gay made the tackle on Aaron Dobson after nine yards. Cortez Allen brought Edelman down after some yards after the catch to set up a manageable third down. Allen missed Edelman on an end around for a first down.
Shazier broke through the line on the following play, exploding through the gap for a tackle for loss. On second and 13, Cortez Allen was the first to wrap up Lewis. On third down, Edelman converted in front of Blake for the first down.
The defense made the run stop on first down on a run around right end. Brady found Edelman in a soft zone between Blake and Will Allen down to the 35. Gronkowski caught one down the seam with Robert Golden in coverage as Jones closed in on Brady. Another pass to Gronkowski finished in the end zone with Golden missing the tackle.
Following a touchback, Williams picked up two yards on first down. On second and eight, play action led to an overthrow to Miller. On third down, Darrius Heyward-Bey hauled in by far his best play as a Steelers with a 48-yard pass. From the 35, Williams brushed off first contact to pick up five yards. Another carry set up third and two. Roethlisberger threw behind Brown, setting up Scobee for a second miss, this time from 46 yards.
After a completion for a first down to Edelman, Jones made the run stop for second and 10. Brady threw a nice arcing touch pass to Amendola through a pick. Brady dumped off to his running back, with Lawrence Timmons missing a tackle to allow the first down.
After an eight-yard run, James Harrison made the tackle to set up third and one. Another quarterback sneak set up first and goal. Gay got a good pop on Edelman on first down after a four-yard pickup. On second and goal, Gronkowski slipped through on a run look to haul in his second touchdown pass in the back of the end zone, grabbing a 14-0 lead.
Following an Archer return out to just the 17, Brown took a quick slant about five yards. On second down, Williams escaped for the first down, but Wallace was flagged for a hold. A quick pass to Miller gained nine yards. On third and six Roethlisberger found Brown down the field for 37 yards.
Williams was stopped after a two-yard gain on first down. On second down from the 40, Roethlisberger was wrestled down after a short gain to set up third and three. Roethlisberger took a shot down to Markus Wheaton, but he was unable to hang on to the ball through the ground. Going for it on fourth down, Roethlisberger found Heyward-Bey on a short catch to move the chains and call a timeout with under a minute left in the half.
Williams continued to find the holes, picking up five yards on first down. Roethlisberger threw to Heyward-Bey in the end zone, but his right foot was just barely out of bounds. After an incompletion, Scobee connected on his first field goal to make it 14-3.