The Pittsburgh Steelers played well enough to win the season opener against the Cleveland Browns. That is a safe statement now that the outcome has been decided. 21-18 is in the record books and another win for the Black & Gold. However, during the game I did allow some doubt to creep in.
That’s not the way it started. I was safely ensconced in my little spot at the Outta the Way Café in Derwood, Maryland 90 minutes before kickoff. Other Steeler fans were there as well. There is an air of expectancy for the Steelers this year and folks don’t want to miss a second of it. Ordered pierogie and a beer; laptop on with the Steelers Depot Live Update and Discussion Thread open. Dave Bryan opens up the thread with “Happy, happy, joy, joy! Let’s go Steelers!” Yes, here we go! Have Steelers website tabbed along with another website to track the box score. Ear buds in with Steelers Nation Radio game show to describe the action. Being an average Steelers fan, I cannot stand the television announcers so always tune them out.
The name on the inactive list that blared at me was Bud Dupree. Anthony Chickillo is the next man up. Funny, I did not automatically think James Harrison, honest injun! A couple plays and the Steelers defense is all over the place. Tyler Matakevich blocks the punt and Chickillo recovers for the first score of the game! At this point, I am unaware of the injury to Stephon Tuitt and believing that DeShone Kizer is in for a very long day.
While there were some bright spots from the offense, especially two touchdowns by Jesse James, most observers must admit the offense looked rusty. The offense is where the team has invested and 30-points a game is their goal. The offense achieved less than half of that putting only 14 points on the board. As Steelers Depot commenter melblount stated in the thread, “Again, best offense in the league…on paper.”
What made this game close? Cleveland came to play and 13 penalties against the Steelers either stymied the Steelers offense or extended a drive the Browns. Kizer did keep his composure despite being sacked 7 times. As reader NinjaMountie commented, “this game will pad the teams season sack total” The Steelers running game was horrible. While the defense held Isiah Crowell to 32 yards on the ground – that almost matched the Steelers total rushing effort of 35 yards.
So, a blowout was not to be had this game. An interception at the goal line off a tipped pass prevented the Steelers going up 28-10. Instead, A promising Steelers drive is stunted by a penalty and the Browns score to come within three.
What prevented the Browns from coming from behind to win? Well the Black & Gold defense obviously. T.J. Watt and others made some key plays at key moments. But I also discerned a pattern that Bill Cowher would use with Jerome Bettis. Take a lead into the 4th quarter and have the offense maintain possession of the ball to eat up the remaining time on the clock. An anemic running game from a rusty Le’Veon Bell and an out of sync offensive line would seemingly prevent the formula from working. Antonio Brown only missed one practice this summer – that was for the birth of his son. He also regularly worked with the Jugs passing machine after practice. My belief is that work paid off and he made two clutch catches that preserved Steelers drives and kept the ball out of the Brown’s hands. He was not rusty; he was not out of sync with the quarterback; he was game ready. Antonio Brown answered the bell.
A win is a win. Looking forward to seeing how this team continues to develop next week versus Minnesota. I thought that Stephon Tuitt was poised to have a huge game but he hurt his left arm in the first series. My hope is that he can fully recover from whatever happened and play again this season. But if not, next man up.
Plenty of flaws to point out but it was a win after all. Let’s take it and celebrate. New Orleans has a Mardi Gras celebration once a year. In Pittsburgh, we have our own Fat Monday every week after a Steelers victory. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let’s celebrate and then prepare for another contest next week.