Steelers Week 1 What We Learned
The Steelers 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills was just a massive win on a number of levels from a long-term outlook with the 2021 club. Take off the homer glasses and this team with the schedule they have, had the look of a 9-8 type football team at best coming into the season. 10 or more wins was going to be deemed a highly successful season.
Getting to 10 or 11 wins becomes possible when you come away from with road wins like the Steelers came away with in Buffalo. This was a game almost everyone saw as an ‘L’ on the schedule. Just an expected bad matchup where Josh Allen would spread out the Steelers D and exploit the Steelers bad matchups in the secondary/scheme and force the Steelers hand of trying to win a shootout that their offense would have little chance of keeping up.
Instead it was the opposite.
The Steelers just flat discombobulated Allen and the Bills offense.
Mike Tomlin has won a lot of football games in his coaching career and against an expected top AFC contender, this was one of the finest coached regular season games of the Tomlin era.
Scheme wise and down to executing the game plan, the Steelers were a step ahead of the Bills offense all day.
“Mike Tomlin and his team came in here and outcoached us and outplayed us, and I give them credit,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott said.
— A Dominating Front-Seven with peak Chargers Melvin Ingram Changes Outlook —
Cam Heyward had an Aaron Donald type day. As dominant of a game you’ll see from an interior lineman. Heyward controlled the line of scrimmage with a sack and 12 pressures. Heyward has become quite the player into his 30’s which is something where during his prime years, he was more of just a quality starter than an All-Pro type level player he’s become the last couple seasons.
No practice, no problem for T.J. Watt who had a two sack game.
We know what Heyward and Watt can bring to the table any given Sunday. The biggest story of the day was Melvin Ingram. This was peak Chargers Ingram and if this is the player the Steelers get, it opens so many possibilities for this defense to attack opposing offenses.
Ingram was phenomenal with 8 QB pressures against the Bills.
Meanwhile, Devin Bush was much better above expectations from how he looked all camp, and how the Steelers were able to play Bush and Joe Schobert in the Dime and not get shredded by a great offense was encouraging.
— Outlook for the Offense…… —
The Steelers offense totaled 54 yards in the first half and still came away with an impressive road win.
Ben Roethlisberger statistically was pedestrian against the Bills, going 18/32 for 188 yards and 1 touchdown. It was much of the same for the offense that became their downfall late last season.
Roethlisberger averaged under six yards on depth of target in completing 56% of his passes.
But, what Ben can still do is beat a defense with his eyes. It’s going to be an inconsistent offense all season. Assuming the demise of the defense taking a step back was greatly exaggerated, the key to the season on whether the Steelers are a 10+ win team again is going to be Roethlisberger’s ability to limit turnovers and hit on just enough plays at crucial situations like he was able to do in the second half against the Bills. Roethlisberger was able to beat the Bills over the top late in the game.
Sooner than later, the Matt Canada play-action designs are likely going to get axed. Roethlisberger just never looked comfortable early on and it’s hard to see him at his age becoming comfortable in that element. As each game progresses, we’ll likely start seeing less of it like what played out in the second half.
What was different? There’s a lot more jet motion and shifts than under Randy Fichtner but the routes being ran was more of the same in the wide outs being more of an extension of the running game than attempting to hit deep for big yardage. Luckily the Steelers have some dynamic playmakers at wide receiver in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool who can turn nothing into something.
Still, way things are likely headed is whether long-term the Canada style offense can disguise good enough to create enough space for their talent wide out group as the rest of the league caught on last season.
At the end of the day, bet on the offensive scheme become more of a Ben Roethlisberger styled offense……