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First and 10

First and 10: Is Increased Optimism about Steelers Realistic?

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One week is an awfully small sample size when it comes to evaluating an NFL football team.

But that won’t stop many from around the league drastically changing their feelings about the outlook for certain players or certain teams.

In Pittsburgh, after a Week 1 upset win over the Buffalo Bills, optimism has reigned supreme. That’s been reflected in the betting markets, which have seen the Steelers’ division title odds climb dramatically with Baltimore and Cleveland losses to go along with the unexpected Steelers win.

Sometimes, what we see when the games go live gives us good reason to change the way we feel about a team. A new wrinkle that we didn’t see in preseason, or a player in a new situation proving they can have success can change things for a team’s outlook.

While many in Cleveland are lamenting their Week 1 loss, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in a four-point setback on the road against the class of the AFC and the best quarterback in the game in Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. The Browns will be fine.

What about the Steelers? Is this newfound optimism founded after knocking off the Bills — who were a runaway preseason pick to win the AFC East and make some serious noise in the playoffs?

To answer that, you have to focus on the process, instead of the results. Coming into the game against Buffalo, the two biggest areas of weakness on the Steelers appeared to be slot cornerback and offensive line.

Slot corner looked like the chink in the armor of an otherwise strong defense, with James Pierre and Tre Norwood’s combined 27 snaps of NFL defense coming into Buffalo providing plenty to worry about how the Steelers would hold up against a deep cadre of Bills receivers.

They did just fine. Better than fine, actually. Norwood looked like a player that can do multiple jobs well, and while Pierre was picked on by Josh Allen at times, he never gave up a big, backbreaking play. Receivers as talented as Stephon Diggs are going to make their catches, but the Steelers kept him in front of them and limited his impact as much as possible.

That’s a huge win for the Steelers’ secondary and their outlook for the season. When going down the rest of the early schedule, you won’t find a receivers room as deep and talented as the Buffalo one that the Steelers just stifled. So increased confidence in that unit seems well founded.

The same cannot be said of the Steelers’ offensive line. Pittsburgh struggled mightily to run the ball all day against the Bills, and while Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, the Steelers also didn’t call very many of the kind of deep passing plays that put him in real danger to be hit, either.

And unlike at wide receiver, Buffalo is fairly weak along the defensive line, especially compared to some other teams that the Steelers will face. One of them is this week’s Las Vegas Raiders squad that just upset Baltimore.

Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue are better than every defensive end on the Buffalo roster and Clelin Ferrell and Carl Nassib are absurdly good second-teamers. That’s not just a Raiders problem. Most of the best edge rushers in the NFL are on the Steelers schedule this season. They’ll see Myles Garrett twice, Joey Bosa, Bud Dupree, Khalil Mack and Von Miller. The kind of performance the line put down against Buffalo will not work against more talented defensive fronts.

That’s not to say that things can’t get better. It’s a young group and improvement should be expected, especially from the first game to the second, but unlike their cohorts in the defensive secondary, the Steelers’ front five has yet to prove it can get the job done against the NFL’s best.

News and notes from around the Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League.

STEELERS HEADLINES

🏈 Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was at North Carolina’s practice on TuesdayCale Berger

🏈 The Steelers rose to eighth in ESPN, Yahoo! power rankings. Berger

🏈 Steelers ILB Ulysees Gilbert III completes long journey back from injury to make splash plays in Week 1. Alan Saunders

Draft Kings Sign Up Bonus!

🏈 Steelers Injury Updates: Robert Spillane to be limited, rest of Steelers healthy for Week 2. Saunders

VIDEO CONTENT FROM PITTSBURGH SPORTS LIVE

STEELERS HISTORY

🏈 2020 The Steelers found out that RT Zach Banner had suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the opener. Saunders

🏈 2019  Ben Roethlisberger left the Steelers’ game against the Seahawks with an elbow injury that would later require surgery. Saunders

🏈 1995 Steelers center J.C. Hassenauer was born in Woodbury, Minnesota.

Pittsburgh Steelers center J.C. Hassenauer (60) trains at Heinz Field during the Steelers 2020 Training Camp, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers)

🏈 1974 Former Steelers safety Mike Logan was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Logan joined the Steelers as a free agent in 2001 and played six seasons with the team, winning Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season.

🏈 1971 Former Steelers safety Myron “Boo” Bell was born in Toledo, Ohio. Bell was a fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 1994 and sent six seasons in Pittsburgh. He started Super Bowl XXX after the 1996 season.

5 Jan 2003: Mike Logan of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the Steelers 36-33 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Playoffs at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA.
Mandatory Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/TSN/Icon SMI

AROUND THE NETWORK

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WVU Sports Now: WVU Sports Hall of Fame will welcome 11 members from last year

Nittany Sports Now: Big-name recruits set to visit Saturday’s game against Auburn

Pittsburgh Soccer Now: Final: Pitt 1, Penn State 0 

Pittsburgh Baseball Now: Steven Brault is out for the season, Pirates claim pitcher on waivers.

 

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