(Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
In a first half that looked all too similar to the last six weeks of the Steelers’ 2020 campaign, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense looked lifeless. After just 57 yards of total offense in the 1st half, a major turnaround was needed in order to avoid an underwhelming start to the season. Turn around they did. With 20 unanswered points to start the 2nd half, including a punt blocked by Pittsburgh’s Miles Killebrew that Ulysees Gilbert scooped up for the score to put his team up 10. After a quick response from the Bills offense to bring the game back within a score, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led a 9-play, 48-yard drive that resulted in a Chris Boswell 45-yard field goal that sealed the 23-16 Week 1 victory for the visiting team.
The Steelers' defense showed out against a very talented Buffalo offense, holding them to just 16 points on the afternoon. They held Preseason MVP candidate QB Josh Allen to under 300 yards throwing while also sacking him three times. In addition to the sacks, the Steelers were in Allen’s face all day. Knocking down passes and drawing holding penalties, the Steelers pass rush looked like they were in mid-season form. OLB T.J Watt, who just signed a 5-year contract extension that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the league, lived up to his salary as he led the way with 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Other notable defensive performances came from the likes of DE Cam Heyward and DB Cam Sutton, the former who tallied two passes defended as well as a sack. Sutton on the other hand tallied 5 tackles and broke up two of Allen’s passes in an impressive manner.
As for the Pittsburgh offense, the stats do not jump off the page at a glance. But considering the majority of the yards and catches came in the 2nd half, it ended up being a productive day for OC Matt Canada’s group in his Steeler debut. Roethlisberger completed 18 of his 32 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps more importantly, however, he did not turn the ball over. Wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool led the way for the pass catchers as teamed up for 7 catches and 97 yards between the two. Each of them also reeled in a crucial catch on the Steeler’s final scoring drive which ultimately shut the door on HC Doug McDermott’s Bills. Also of note, RB Najee Harris totaled 50 yards in his NFL debut. The run lanes were not too large for the rookie out of Alabama, but he worked with what he was given and provided a boost to the Steelers offense at the running back position, something Pittsburgh did not have much of a year ago.
In what was a thrilling matchup, Steelers HC Mike Tomlin must feel good about the result that he and his team got on the road. In what was the first true road game in over a year, Pittsburgh showed a lot of poise of defense and maturity on offense. As the season unfolds, Tomlin will certainly want to see his team start faster in games, but he has to be pleased to see the closing ability his side displayed.
Up next for the Steelers is another 1 p.m. matchup, this time at home as they host the Las Vegas Raiders following their Monday Night Football matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. As for the Bills, they will go on their first road trip as they will meet the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium next Sunday.