Gold Lot Sports - Steelers Monday Focus: Takeaways from Week 1

                                                        (Adrian Kraus/Associated Press)

Defense, defense, defense.  That's the number one thing I took away from the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in their first game of the season.  In a game where the offense sputtered for most of it, the defense came up clutch every time they needed to, keeping the game within reaching distance throughout.

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Steel Curtain Returns

This defense's calling card has always been getting pressure on the quarterback and they got back to their old ways yesterday.  Josh Allen was running for his life all game.  Newly paid edge rusher T.J. Watt made his presence felt all game long, racking up five hits on the quarterback and two sacks, while also forcing a fumble.  It's only one game but it certainly looks like he was worth every penny of the $112 million the Steelers dished out to him Thursday.  

The rest of the defense came to play as well.  As a unit, they held last season's second highest scoring offense to one touchdown and 16 total points.  I mentioned last week how the Steelers are undervalued coming into the season.  It appears the defense took all of that media criticism personally, coming out with something to prove in a hostile atmosphere.  

The play of the game came with the Steelers up 13-10 in the fourth quarter and the Bills looking to drive down the field to re-take the lead.  Cornerback Jason Pierre came out of nowhere to knock the ball out of former Steeler, Emmanuel Sanders, hands to break up a potential big gain.  The next play, Cam Heyward sacked Allen leading to a punt, which got blocked by Miles Killebrew and returned for a touchdown by Ulysses Gilbert.  This touchdown made the score 20-10 and the Steelers never looked back.

Unspectacular Offense

While the defense is definitely the talking point from game one, it is still worth mentioning the offensive attack.  For a team that was notorious for dropping passes last season, the receivers came up with big catches at crucial times.  The most notable of these being the Diontae Johnson bobble catch in the corner of the end zone that gave the Steelers their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter.  

It was a classic case of doing just enough to win by the offense.  Ben Roethlisberger's stat line was pretty unspectacular - 18/32 for 188 yards and one touchdown.  However, Ben is no stranger to winning ugly and this game was a prime example of it.  

Najee Gets Every Snap

I also want to mention the Steelers first round draft pick.  Rookie running back Najee Harris had 16 carries for 45 yards in his debut.  At an average of less than three yards per carry, it was another case of unspectacular offensive play.  But it is worth noting that he was the only running back across the league to play every snap for his team in Week One.  

In an era where teams use two, three and even four running backs over the course of the game, this is a very significant development.  The Steelers look primed to give him every opportunity to be the main guy running the ball.  Hopefully, the offensive line can provide a bit more blocking to up those yards per carry numbers going forward.

Look Ahead

Next week, the Steelers have their first home game of the season against the Las Vegas Raiders.  It would be great to see the defense roll their momentum into this game.  Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has shown over the years that he can be very susceptible to a heavy pass rush and lacks the mobility that has made quarterbacks like Josh Allen such a threat.  So if this week was any indication of the things to come, Carr could be in for a long day at the office.