[What We Learned is returning for the 2021 N.F.L. season with a new writer and a new look.]
How dare any of us doubt a crew coached by Mike Tomlin?
There are just a few ensures in in the present day’s N.F.L.: Tom Brady will eat his avocado ice cream and win Tremendous Bowls. Jerry Jones will do one thing absurd to increase Dallas’s championship drought. And Tomlin will maintain his Pittsburgh Steelers in Tremendous Bowl competition.
At all times.
These Steelers hardly generated a decibel of buzz heading into Week 1. Heck, it was a shock Pittsburgh even needed to carry again the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
The Buffalo Payments have been the crew primed to take the following step. Josh Allen was the must-have quarterback. And all Tomlin’s Steelers did was journey 200 miles north, strut into Highmark Stadium and remind your entire N.F.L., with one punishing 23-16 triumph, that they’re not going anyplace.
Which is, after all, what Tomlin’s groups have performed for 14 seasons.
Was it fairly? No. However “not fairly” is when Tomlin’s groups are traditionally most harmful. Above all, Tomlin’s groups odor blood.
That’s what occurred on one ridiculous play name by the Payments initially of the fourth quarter.
Going through a fourth-and-1 from Pittsburgh’s 41-yard line — and with a 10-6 lead initially of the fourth quarter — the Payments correctly went for it. In any case, that is the Buffalo crew that caught its personal head within the guillotine a 12 months in the past by choosing subject objectives towards the Patrick Mahomes-powered Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in January’s A.F.C. championship recreation. Just a little guts within the play-calling is a welcome change.
What got here subsequent was past weird.
Allen rotated to flick a go backward to Matt Breida, and cornerback Cameron Sutton was proper there to lasso the operating again to the bottom for a 7-yard loss.
4 performs later, Pittsburgh pounced.
Roethlisberger feathered a 5-yard rating to Diontae Johnson behind the tip zone. Johnson, who led the league in drops a 12 months in the past, displayed exceptional focus locking the ball in whereas dragging his again foot.
On the following drive, cornerback James Pierre — the newest homegrown, undrafted future star in Pittsburgh — punched out what would have been an extended completion to Emmanuel Sanders.
Two performs later, the Steelers blocked a punt for a landing to go up, 20-10.
And after a Payments subject objective put the strain on Outdated Man Ben to complete this off, Roethlisberger did precisely that. A pair of classic, slow-motion throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster (24 yards) and Chase Claypool (14 yards) teed up a game-clinching subject objective.
The Pittsburgh protection, say it with me now, appears to be like elite. Up entrance, everybody took turns smacking across the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Allen, successfully turning him into the 2018 rookie model — overthrowing receivers, skidding passes into the grime, fumbling and looking out downright skittish for 3 hours straight.
T.J. Watt is value each penny. There are game-wreckers all over the place on this protection, beginning with the person who signed a four-year, $112 million extension this previous week. Watt accounted for 5 of the crew’s eight QB hits.
It’s clear the Steelers need to get rookie operating again Najee Harris rolling in 2021, maintain video games shut and let Roethlisberger win it within the fourth. He’s previous. He’s motionless. He’s simply meme-able. However he has additionally thrived in each potential scenario.
We gained’t see Roethlisberger chucking it 60 instances in one other playoff loss this season — these Steelers can dictate the tempo.
And for the entire “Final Dance” speak in Inexperienced Bay, the Steelers are additionally able to sending their quarterback out on prime this season.
Russell Wilson cooked.
Lengthy earlier than Aaron Rodgers hijacked the headlines for 4 months, there was one other sad quarterback on this league: Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks practically divorced after 9 seasons. It was shut, too. A lot nearer than anybody realizes. The Chicago Bears thought it was a performed deal.
As an alternative, each Wilson and the Seahawks realized they have been at their greatest collectively and everybody’s hope was that new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would primarily carry all events collectively to sing just a little “Kumbaya” across the campfire.
Did they ever in Week 1.
Going through one of many N.F.L.’s greatest defenses, on the highway, Wilson was elegant in main Seattle to a 28-16 win over Indianapolis. The eight-time Professional Bowler completed with 18 of 23 completions for 254 yards with 4 touchdowns, no picks and a 152.three passer ranking. Wilson’s 69-yard moon ball landing go to Tyler Lockett was a factor of magnificence, too, touring 60 yards within the air.
Granted, we have been teased like this in 2020. Wilson was lights out for a superb two months. Then, your entire offense went defunct and Seattle practically pulled the plug on an period. Right here’s pondering this Wilson and this offense are each right here to remain.
A minimum of for the remainder of this season.