“In losses, you learn lessons”, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward told reporters on Monday night following the team’s opening victory over the New York Giants. The team had gotten more opportunities than they normally have to learn some lessons last year, going 8-8, tied for their worst record since 2003.
“But in wins, you build on them”, he added, and Heyward is already thinking about how his team can build upon his performance from that game. They know that they were far from perfect, but it’s a much more comfortable position from which to operate, to work on your faults following a victory, rather than after a loss.
“That’s not to say that we played perfect. There’s a lot of ugly plays we can improve on”, the team’s defensive co-captain told reporters. “But we had the mentality—they’re gonna get some yards. It’s the first game. We’ve just got to make the plays. In the red zone, I’ve got to be Revis and make those cornerback stops. But I’m not banking on that. We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays, and we’ve got to do it from here on out”.
The Giants did manage to get some yards, admittedly. Giants second-year quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 279 yards, the team posting a net of 262 passing yards. That is the most that they allowed since last year’s second opener against the New England Patriots. They only allowed more than 200 passing yards four times all season.
But it did take Jones 41 passes to get there. He averaged six yards per attempt, which is not great for the quarterback, though as a defense, the Steelers would have liked to have done better. They also allowed the Giants’ offense to convert on third down eight of 15 times, and another time on fourth down, so that’s something that they need to clean up.
But taking everything into consideration, including conditioning, and the fact that their game plan was to stop the run—something they did very well, outside of a couple of scrambles by Jones—it was a good start. They knew they would give up something in the passing game to stifle Saquon Barkley, which they executed well.
And now, it’s time to build off of what they started in the opener, to take those lessons and apply them into more effective strategies, in time for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos. While the Steelers suffered some injuries, Denver is in even worse shape on that front, including the loss of premiere pass rusher Von Miller, among others on more temporary injuries.