Welcome to “Quick Yinzing”, a fast reaction article where a member of the SCU staff gives their initial post-game impressions without digging into any films, major stats, or other deep analysis. It’s as real as that car ride home or sobering down at the bar following the game.
This picture sums up the Pittsburgh Steelers' performance on Sunday night almost perfectly. Painful. If you're a part of Steelers Nation, you realize that this is a team with a lot of young talent that has a lot of growing left to do. You'll also realize, especially if you're on social media platforms, that this was a divisive game. Losing 33-3 is always going to be painful. It was made more so due to the hype the NFL created between the only two teams to have won six Super Bowl Championships.
With Steelers fans at each others' throats over poor performance on offense and defense from "their team", this feels like a set-up; it feels like it was never intended to be a good game, but a coming-out party for the princess at the ball (New England) who was going to receive her banner and hold up her scepter. It also brought out some of the worst comments I've ever seen from fans of the same team I cheer for since Neil O'Donnell was calling plays for the black and gold and Limas Sweed had bricks for hands.
Saying that, however, we can't just overlook how the Steelers played. They played like a team that hasn't developed strong chemistry yet, like they're not quite up to tempo, and like they weren't completely prepared for what the Patriots were going to throw at them on either side of the ball.
Did Donte Moncrief look like a WR2? No. He was ineffective and if he wasn't dropping passes, Ben Roethlisberger wasn't giving him any help in grabbing an easy ball, either. Did JuJu Smith-Schuster show that he can take on the best CB opposing defenses will put on him all season long? Not yet. This game illustrated that the Steelers are still working the kinks out of their pass-catch game, especially when James Conner had one of the better receptions in the game. Diontae Johnson showed some hops but he's not quite there yet, either.
Defensively, there were some issues as well. While the Steelers started out having Mark Barron shadow James White, it didn't take long before Tom Brady does what Brady does very, very well: change the offense up. With the number of weapons Brady has at his disposal, it would have been a tough game for any Week 1 team to walk into Gillette and win. Even Kansas City, who put on quite a show earlier in the day, would have had their hands full. The Patriots did not make a ton of changes to their team from what they fielded in 2018 and everyone knows there is a lot to having consistency when you want to field a challenger of a team in the NFL.
While J.J. Watt, Javon Hargrave, and the defensive front were grinding play-after-play, often against a double-team or extra blocker (the Patriots utilized their fullback, James Develin, a lot in this game), the linebacker tasked with covering the center of the field was still exposed - whether it was Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Vince Williams, or Devin Bush. With crossing route and rub-routes, not to mention underneath pick plays, the Patriots kept the Steelers defensive backfield very busy trying to anticipate where they needed to lock up. They got caught watching on too many plays before they started to get up to speed and it killed them.
So, this all sounds like a familiar narrative. We watched this Pittsburgh team during the preseason and had some concerns, but they looked like they were on their way up, up, up. They didn't play like they were at the top by any means, but September traditionally isn't the month the Steelers light up. Again, no excuses. They didn't have what it took to win.
Can they win? Absolutely. Will they improve even more as the season progresses? We certainly hope they will. Is it time to toss out the #Fire (Insert Name) Tweets and burn jerseys? If Steelers fans give up on the team after the very first game of the season, then there's more going on than just "fandom" out there. There's no need to break the glass and grab the fire extinguishers yet.
This is a game that the Steelers need to put in their "must watch" bin as motivation. They have to address the fact that they were not ready for this game, from rookie to veteran to coaching staff, and take a hard look at what they did not do... not what they did. Then they need to get on the field and do what needs to be done in Week 2.