It was one of the sloppiest games in recent memory, but one that came down to the wire. After a plethora of turnovers and numerous injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to make one last defensive stand in order to come away with a win. On 4th and 10 with time running out, Joey Porter Jr. ran his receiver out of bounds and Deshaun Watson's pass fell incomplete.
The Steelers would hang on to win this critical AFC North matchup with a final score of 26-22 but don't be quick to credit the offense for outscoring Cleveland in primetime. That credit belongs mostly to Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt.
On the very first play of the game, Watson's pass bounced off his defender, then off Minkah Fitzpatrick before Alex Highsmith came away with a tone-setting play. He picked off the pass near the sideline and ran it back in for a touchdown -- jumping the Steelers to a 7-0 lead.
Later in the game, with just under seven minutes remaining in the contest, it was Highsmith again who showed up big. This time, it was a strip sack from the talented edge defender. T.J. Watt scooped up the fumble and instead of pouncing on the football, he scooped it up on the move and ran it back in for a score.
These were certainly game-altering plays, and the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn't come away with the victory without them. While this is an encouraging sign for the defense, the offense has not given Steelers fans any reason to be confident in them moving forward.
Steelers have major issues on offense
Though the splashy defense was a big storyline in this game, a stagnant Steelers offense was talked about all night. Kenny Pickett and company went just 4 of 14 on 3rd down conversions and recorded a dismal 255 total yards, per ESPN stats. This equated to just 4.8 yards per play.
Without the aid of a pair of defensive touchdowns, this certainly would not have been enough to get the job done. The Steelers had just 55 team rushing yards on the evening, and almost all of them came on two plays from Najee Harris. Pickett passed the ball 30 times in this contest for just 200 yards with an ugly interception.
If you take away the two defensive scores, this offense scored just 12 points in this home primetime game on Monday Night Football. This is simply inexcusable, and Pittsburgh cannot afford another offensive performance like this moving forward.
Pickett's showing certainly didn't instill confidence among the fanbase, as his spotty performance raised more questions than answers. Apart from a few big plays to George Pickens, they couldn't get anything going on offense.
Mike Tomlin will gladly take the win here, as the Steelers have avoided the dreaded 0-2 start on the season. However, this was a pretty disgusting display by the offense. It's time to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to fix things ahead of their Week 3 primetime game against the Las Vegas Raiders.