The Steelers pulled out the upset in Week 1 against the Bengals, and here are the winners and losers from the matchup.
Despite being underdogs in their first game, the Steelers put together a gritty performance to come out with the win. It was never certain, and the game had plenty of highs and lows, but ultimately this was an impressive win for a team heading in a new direction. As well, the game kept you on the edge of your seat for the entirety of it.
It was a day dominated by the defense, as the stars proved why they are some of the most expensive players in the league. The offense had some bright spots, but most of the struggles fell onto that group. There were bright spots and bad spots all over though, as the team did their best to beat a good Bengals team. Here are the winners and losers from the Steelers 23-20 win over the Bengals.
Steelers main losers stem from the offense
The Steelers found a way to win, but at what cost? Quite a few notable members of the team went down with injuries at some point in the game. While the hope is that none of them are that serious, it certainly doesn’t seem great for some of the players.
There were some minor injuries, as Alex Highsmith and Mason Cole both were injured but returned to the game. Others who didn’t should hopefully have a quick turnaround. The big names to watch are Najee Harris and T.J. Watt. Harris left the game and there are long-term questions about his health now. Meanwhile, Watt likely tore his pec and could possibly miss the entire season.
Loser: Najee Harris
I hate putting an injured player on this list, but this was far from a good day for the former first-round pick. Harris looked slow and was lacking a lot of the power we had seen from him last season. He failed to generate much of a push as a runner, and the offense could never truly establish the run because of it.
To his credit, he may have been playing hurt before he was pulled because of injury. As well, the line didn’t do him a lot of favors. That said, he was drafted and given the captain status because the expectation was that he can be the main cog in the offense this year. He failed to do that during the first game of the season.
Loser: The Offensive Line
Some things seem to remain constant. The offensive line, while better than I expected, still failed to do much for this offense. The pass blocking was sufficient, although Mitch Trubisky was under a lot of pressure for most of the game. While it wasn’t costly due to his athleticism, the passing game was limited to a shorter attack akin to last year.
The run blocking was pretty abysmal. I feel like Harris and the line fed off of each other’s struggles and as a result, both ended up on the losers list. I do think this unit can get better as the season goes on, but it wasn’t a good showing from this group. Beating my meager expectations isn’t enough to land you on the winner’s list.
Steelers had stars in every facet of this game
Winner: Pressley Harvin
It was a very hot and cold season from Pressley Harvin last season. At times, he showcased a cannon of a leg that could flip the field. He would also shank his fair share of punts as well which led to the defense being put in a bad position. Consistency was the name of the game and what the Steelers needed this season.
In his first showing, one can’t be mad with the output that they got from Harvin. He punted eight times and averaged a healthy 48.5 yards per punt. Better yet, despite the heavy workload, he didn’t have one of his common shanks like what we saw last year. Sure, there is still room for improvement, but Harvin looks like a more than capable punter entering his second season.
Winner: The Tight Ends
While Pat Freiermuth may not have hit the lofty goals I predicted for him, he still had a stellar game. He was one of the top targets for the team, and he was even used more as a downfield threat. It was an excellent first outing for the second-year tight end, and I expect things only to get better for him moving forward.
The real surprise was Zach Gentry. While he was good last year in a blocking role, he made a big impact in the passing game this week. Moving forward, I expect this team to focus on getting their tight ends involved. Both are proving to be capable targets, and both can block as well as catch passes. It was a strong game for both of these players.
Winner: The Defense
There is no way to include a winners and losers post from this game without including the entire defense. Sure, they took some lumps at times, but as a whole, the Steelers fielded one of the best defenses in the NFL this week. They held the run game in check, mercilessly attacked Joe Burrow, and caused numerous turnovers which in turn led to a victory.
Shoutout to Minkah Fitzpatrick who arguably had his best game as a Steelers player to date. He was all over the field and had the critical pick-six to start the game. The defensive line was getting a lot of push from a lot of different players, and even the secondary held up pretty well. In a modern NFL when offenses are expected to dominate, you don’t get much better than what this defense did on Sunday.
The Steelers found a way to shed their underdog label this week and come out as winners. There was a lot to like in this game, and while some questions surround the injury front, you have to be happy with what this team put out. It was a solid showing for a team with relatively low expectations.