The Steelers secondary will have nightmares of Rob Gronkowski. The New England tight end scored three touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a 28-21 win over Pittsburgh in the NFL’s season opener on Thursday night.
The first half was dominated by the hosting New England Patriots who took advantage of a lackluster visiting Pittsburgh Steelers defense. The Steelers played better in the second half of the game, but it would not be enough to topple the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
Coming into the season, many were incredibly skeptical of the Steelers secondary and the defense reinforced their worries tonight. The mistakes, lack of communication, and confusion boiled over to a plain out terrible performance by the defensive backs and safeties, especially in the first half.
The first touchdown exemplified the struggles of the night as Rob Gronkowski was left completely uncovered on the far side of the field and scored with ease on a 16-yard pass from Tom Brady.
The drive that scored the second Gronk touchdown saw a defense that fielded only 10 men. Gronkowski would cap that drive off with a 6-yard score to put the Patriots up 14-0.
The Steelers were able to move the ball in the first half, but newly acquired kicker Josh Scobee missed a pair of field goals, keeping Pittsburgh off the board.
Scobee finally connected in the second quarter, and the going into halftime, the Steelers trailed 21-3 after his 44-yard field goal.
The second half brought new life for the Steelers as the offense began to click, but Brady and his offense was too much for the defense to handle.
The third touchdown by the Patriots would come after a 28-yard pass interference was called on Cortez Allen that set New England up on the Steelers’ one yard line. Tom Brady would eventually throw to backup tight end Scott Chandler for a 1-yard touchdown and give New England a 21-3 lead.
The Steelers were able to drive back down the field and finally find the end zone, with fullback Will Johnson hitting pay dirt with a 1-yard run. A Roethlisberger-to-Markus Wheaton pass connected for the 2-point conversion to draw the Steelers to within 10.
In the fourth quarter, the Steelers defense again couldn’t contain Gronkowski, who had a catch-and-run for 52 yards before being tackled at the Steelers 27 yard line. He would eventually score his third receiving touchdown of the game and give the Patriots a 28-21 lead.
Roethlisberger, despite some minor mistakes, had a solid outing. The 12-year veteran passed for 351 yards and completed 26 passes on 38 attempts. Roethlisberger began to find consistency in the second half, connecting with Brown on multiple occasions, though a fourth quarter interception would put a nail in the coffin for the visiting team.
Big Ben was able to find Brown in the end zone with under a minute remaining for a meaningless touchdown that narrowed the margin of victory to seven points for the Patriots.
Brown, along with Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey were beneficiaries of well placed and timed throws by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Patriots defense had no answer for Brown, who caught nine balls for 133 yards and a touchdown.
The running game also looked incredibly polished and DeAngelo Williams proved to be a fantastic offseason pickup, as he ran for 127 yards on 21 attempts. His success, in large part, was due to the ability of the offensive line to open up wide running lanes. The veteran running back was able to not only power through the middle gaps, but turned corners incredibly well.