The Steelers defeated the Broncos 26-21 on Sunday to advance to 2-0 on the season. It may not have been the prettiest victory by game's end, but a win is a win. Here are some of the standout plays from the film review of the game.
Tyson Alualu has been terrific as the nose tackle in replacement of Javon Hargraves, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Here he is staying engaged through his assignment, showing lateral quickness, and finishing on a solid tackle early in the game. Alualu has made his presence felt while defending the run.
T.J. Watt dominated right tackle Elijah Wilkinson. On this play he wins with his speed and athleticism, disrupting Lock's progression and forcing him to evacuate the pocket, where Bud Dupree forces the fumble. The Steelers blitzed frequently against Denver, and when your edge rushers can get to the quarterback this quickly it allows you to do so.
JuJu-Smith Schuster has been extremely effective in his role and has played with high effort. He had several strong runs after the catch against Denver, finishing through the tackler on his way down. With Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool stretching the defense, this is likely JuJu's role moving forward.
Rookie guard Devin Dotson made a name for himself in his debut. On this play, he keeps the A gap open for James Conner allowing center Maurkice Pouncey to make his way to the second level. Impressively, he maintained control of Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey to do so. Great rep for Dotson.
And here he is escorting Josey Jewell out of the club en route to a Conner touchdown. It was a stellar debut for number 69.
Mike Hilton's abilities as a blitzer are well documented, but he is also impactful in the run game. Hilton plays with physicality despite his size. On this play, he takes on the tight end, fights through the block, and maintains the edge.
Diontae Johnson has provided Steelers fans with quite a rollercoaster performance through two weeks. Ball security needs to be more of a priority for the young receiver, though it's easy to see why he leads the team in targets so far with 23. He is special with the ball in one on one situations.
Johnson showed his explosiveness on this touchdown with a great route. In cover 3, Johnson knows that the defender is concerned about being beat toward the pylon as he is responsible for that deep third. Johnson fakes outside gains inside leverage and blasts by him.
Big Ben has been very good in his return to action but this was a poor decision against quarters coverage. Roethlisberger needed to either hit Johnson on the out or get rid of the ball. Instead, he forced it downfield to JuJu.
To this day, Cam Heyward is probably one of the most underrated players in football. He does the dirty work for this vaunted Pittsburgh defense, even if it doesn't always register in the stat sheet. Here he is overpowering center Cyrus Kouandijo into the running lane, forcing Gordon to alter his path while the next level defenders flock to the ball.
Denver had success throwing against man to man defense when the Steelers blitzed, which they do often. The Steelers have the athletes on defense to make plays in the backfield, but you're going to give up some yardage in the pass game at times with this strategy. Here is Jeff Driskel taking advantage of Pittsburgh's aggression with one on one's all over the field.
What separates the Steelers D is two words: speed and motor. Here's T.J. Watt with a great effort play influencing the pass lane and then hunting down the quarterback.
And here's Watt and Heyward collapsing the pocket from all angles.
-Vince Williams has been playing fast and with physicality. Williams is constantly around the football and leads the NFL with 6 tackles for loss through 2 weeks.
-Denver had success rushing the ball early with misdirection and cutbacks. The Steelers adjusted to this in the first half by playing with more discipline and gap integrity, but expect teams to continue to use this strategy against Pittsburgh moving forward. It may be the only way to move the ball on the ground against this team.
-This was not Minkah Fitzpatrick's best day. His processing of information seemed much slower than it typically is and he was often a beat off the spot in passing situations. The All-Pro will surely be better in the coming weeks.