Steelers 41, Falcons 17: T.J. Watt must keep leading defense

The Steelers have taken a defensive player in the first round of the draft six years in a row and counting. Before 2013, their longest string of first-round defensive draft picks had been two years.

That draft strategy hadn’t exactly paid off through the first four weeks of the 2018 season. Part of the problem is that only two of those six selections have made a significant impact.

One of them is Ryan Shazier, and we all know that losing him has been a big blow. The Steelers need someone else to become the heart of the defense.

There’s no open audition to fill that need. There’s one guy who has shown he can do it. He’s the only other one of those six first-rounders (Terrell Edmunds gets a pass, too early to judge him) who isn’t a bust candidate, even if he had been barely visible over the last three weeks.

T.J. Watt had three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hits in Sunday’s 41-17 win over the Falcons at Heinz Field. He also led the team with eight tackles, including six solo tackles, according to ESPN.com.

Watt put up similar game-wrecking numbers the only other time this season that the Steelers defense has looked respectable. He had three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and 10 tackles (not to mention the tie-salvaging blocked field goal) in the 21-21 Week 1 stalemate at Cleveland.

In the three games in between, Watt totaled three quarterback hits, 10 tackles and no sacks.

The Steelers took Watt in the first round of the 2017 draft, and he seemed destined for stardom after a two-sack game with an interception in a Week 1 win at Cleveland. He plateaued as the season went on even if it was still a thumbs-up rookie campaign with seven sacks.

Take away Week 1 games in Cleveland, however, and Watt entered Sunday with five sacks in his first 19 career games.

Not to blame Watt for the Steelers’ defensive woes in weeks 2-4 this season. Nobody could tackle against the Ravens. But the Steelers could use a little more consistency from Watt. His performance on Sunday can’t be a once-a-month kind of thing.

At the same time, Watt isn’t the only Steelers defender who made a difference on Sunday. The Steelers sacked Matt Ryan six times with Cameron Heyward adding 1.5 sacks and Jon Bostic sharing a sack. L.J. Fort, who helped fill in for an injured Vince Williams, had a sack and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 41-17 and really put the game away with less than four minutes left.

The Steelers also racked up 11 tackles for loss. Heyward, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo all had 1.5 of those. Fort had one and Bostic and Javon Hargrave both were credited with half of a negative-yardage tackle.

Joe Haden had five tackles, but his biggest contribution didn’t show up on the stat sheet. Not under his name, anyway.

Haden held Julio Jones without a catch for the first three quarters. All five of Jones’ catches for 62 yards came with the Falcons down at least 17 points.

It’s a big reason the Steelers were able to beat a quarterback of Ryan’s caliber for the first time in more than two years.

This victory evened the Steelers’ record at 2-2-1, and oddly enough it also evened the career passer ratings of Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger. They’re tied for seventh on the active list at 94.0. The last time the Steelers beat a quarterback with a career passer rating above 90 was Week 1 of the 2016 season, a 38-16 road win over Kirk Cousins and the Redskins.

Football fans chanting “De-Fense!” in unison is one of sport’s most clichéd rituals. But there seemed to be a deeper meaning when the Heinz Field crowd did it early in the fourth quarter on Sunday.

The Steelers led 27-10 and the Falcons had the ball in Steelers territory when the chant started. There was a feeling that not only were the fans asking for a stop, but that they also were saluting the maligned unit for what it had done in the first three quarters. It was an electric moment, even if it was followed by a brief but scary flashback.

The Falcons scored a touchdown on that drive to pull to within 27-17 with 12:28 left. Just about every Steelers fan of legal drinking age might have felt like reaching for the bottle at that point, because most people old enough to drink are old enough to remember the Falcons’ visit to Heinz Field in 2002, when the Steelers blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and settled for a 34-34 tie.

Antonio Brown and James Conner made sure history didn’t repeat itself when they covered 75 yards in less than three minutes, with Roethlisberger throwing a 47-yard touchdown pass to Brown to make it 34-17.

Brown caught six passes and registered season highs with two touchdowns and 101 yards. Conner ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Steelers in their most convincing win of the season not only on the scoreboard but in their staredown with Le’Veon Bell.

Conner averaged 5.2 yards per carry and also caught four passes for 75 yards. It looked on Sunday like Bell would have to earn playing time if he ever does decide to re-join the Steelers.

Who knows when and if Bell will report. It seems he and his agent are talking to reporters more than they are the Steelers. The only thing that is becoming increasingly clear when it comes to the Steelers’ running back situation is that they won’t have to draft one in the first round next year.

Maybe the Steelers will draft a defensive player in the first round for the seventh straight year, but thanks to Watt and the rest of the defense on Sunday, Steelers fans don’t have to dive into mock drafts just yet. With an opportunity to pull to within a half-game of first place in the AFC North next week at Cincinnati, there’s still a lot to play for this season.

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Ravens 26, Steelers 14: Defense fails early, Roethlisberger falters late

How bad is the Steelers’ defense?

It’s reached the point where all it takes to beat the Steelers is an adequate starting quarterback.

The Steelers fell to Joe Flacco and the Ravens 26-14 Sunday night at Heinz Field, falling to 1-2-1.

Flacco is the last career starter that the Steelers defeated, and even then they gave up 38 points in a 39-38 Week 14 win last season.

Since then the only quarterbacks the Steelers have beaten are T.J. Yates, DeShone Kizer and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick likely lost his starting job Sunday during the Buccaneers’ 48-10 loss to the Bears. Remember when the Steelers and Browns played to a tie while Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers were upsetting the Saints in Week 1? All of a sudden the Steelers’ Week 3 game at Tampa Bay looked a lot tougher.

Well, the Steelers won that game, but it remains their only win and it proves very little considering what transpired in Chicago on Sunday.

Since Week 15 last season, the Steelers have failed to beat Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Patrick Mahomes and Flacco. The talent level among that group varies widely, but what ties them together is that they all have held down starting positions in the NFL at one time or another.

It doesn’t take an elite quarterback to solve the Steelers’ defense these days. All it takes is a competent one.

And the only reason the Steelers managed to beat Flacco in Week 14 last year is that Ben Roethlisberger was better.

He wasn’t better than Flacco on Sunday.

Roethlisberger completed just three of his last 13 passes, including an interception with 3:15 left that allowed the Ravens to kick the last of their four second-half field goals that turned out to be the difference in a game that was tied 14-14 at halftime.

The Steelers’ defense isn’t good enough for them to overcome that kind of performance by Roethlisberger. They allowed 451 yards, including 355 through the air. It’s the first time since 1954 that the Steelers defense has yielded more than 400 yards in three consecutive games, according to Pro Football Reference.

That defense dug the Steelers a 14-0 hole after one quarter. Going back to last season’s playoff loss to the Jaguars, it’s the third straight home game in which the Steelers have allowed at least 14 points in the opening quarter.

The Ravens shredded the Steelers defense like lettuce on a Primanti Bros. sandwich on the game’s opening drive, moving 75 yards on eight plays. Flacco threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to John Brown to make it 7-0.

Then came the same kind of hair-pulling moment that lowlighted the early moments of the Steelers’ two previous home games. Vance McDonald went from embarrassing Chris Conte last week to being embarrassed when he caught a pass and allowed Tony Jefferson to take the ball away from him as if he were a thief pilfering a purse from an elderly tourist. That gave the Ravens the ball at the Steelers’ 31-yard line and they flipped that into a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Collins and a 14-0 lead.

The Steelers damn near fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter after Flacco connected with Brown for 71 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the Steelers’ 2. But Coty Sensabaugh forced a Collins fumble that Terrell Edmunds recovered and the Steelers eventually turned it into a field goal to pull to within 14-6.

McDonald repaired his stock somewhat on the Steelers’ next possession when he broke Jefferson’s tackle and dragged two other Ravens on a 33-yard reception that led to Roethlisberger’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and a 2-point conversion throw to James Conner that tied the game 14-14.

But that was all the Steelers’ scoring.

It’s the first time since 1993 that the Steelers have failed to score in the second half in two straight games.

It’s nice that the Steelers defense shut out the Ravens in the second quarter, but allowing four field goals in the second half wasn’t going to cut it in a situation where the Steelers couldn’t afford to give up any points.

Wouldn’t it be great if the value of second-quarter scoring was enhanced like some kind of lottery power ball? The Steelers have out-scored their opponents 73-10 in the second stanza this season. All that really means, however, is that opposing offenses have the luxury of a siesta before finishing their job in the second half.

Players like Artie Burns and Sean Davis have taken their share of the blame for the Steelers’ defensive woes, but it might be time to look at T.J. Watt.

Since his three-sack game in Week 1, Watt has no sacks and just three quarterback hits. More splash plays from him would help.

The Steelers also could make a splash by adding a player to their defense.

And that’s where Le’Veon Bell inevitably comes in.

The Steelers, and all the scribes, pundits and bloggers who agreed that Bell was asking for too much money, have to stick to their guns and press forward without Bell.

Conner ran the ball nine times for 19 yards on Sunday. He’s averaging just 3.7 yards per carry for the season. But we don’t yet have to confront the possibility that the Steelers made a mistake by not paying Bell because when it comes to the offense, Sunday’s loss is on Roethlisberger even if he was facing the No. 2 defense in the league.

That said, it’s looking more and more like the only way the Steelers can save their season is to trade Bell and get some defensive help in return.

The Steelers are tying to move Bell, according to NFL.com,  and are seeking a second-round draft pick and a “good” player in the deal. It would behoove the Steelers to get a “good” defensive player if they can swing a trade.

But trading Bell would be a complicated matter. He would first have to sign his franchise tender, and he won’t do that unless he knows there’s a long-term deal in it for him after the 2018 season. He would somehow have to be convinced that his new team has long-term plans for him and doesn’t want to risk his health this season any more than he does.

That’s a lot of moving parts, and the likelihood of a trade is remote. But the Steelers have to keep trying, because if their defense doesn’t get better in a hurry their chances of making the playoffs will be just as slim as their chances of trading Bell.

The Steelers currently aren’t good enough to overcome a top-tier defense or stop any non-backup quarterback.

That’s a bad combination.

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Steelers’ first win of 2018 is collection of breakout games

The Steelers no longer are among the huddled masses of the NFL’s winless teams after their 30-27 win at Tampa Bay Monday night. They stay out of the AFC North basement, they have a better record than the Patriots and we will not have to re-live the horror of 2013’s 0-4 start.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Steelers (1-1-1) will have to win at least eight more games to make the playoffs, and they needed every fiber of their being to get that win Monday night. They almost blew a 20-point lead for the first time in franchise history. They allowed 455 yards on defense. They committed 13 penalties and Chris Boswell missed an extra point and a 47-yard field goal attempt.

Do the Steelers really have what it takes to pull this off eight, nine or 10 more times?

They just might if certain players can reproduce their breakout performances.

Like Vance McDonald.

The tight end caught four passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Those 112 yards matched the career high he set in the playoff loss to Jacksonville in January. Most of those yards, however, came in garbage time. McDonald’s yardage last night packed a lot more punch.

Almost literally.

If the Steelers do win more games this season, McDonald’s stiff arm could turn out to be the defining moment that turned the season around.

The Steelers trailed 7-0 in the first quarter and weren’t looking a whole lot better than they looked in the opening minutes of their Week 2 loss to the Chiefs. They already had committed two penalties. Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception and nearly fumbled a snap. The Steelers faced a third-and-10 at their own 25 when Roethlisberger completed a pass to McDonald near midfield and McDonald stiff-armed Bucs’ safety Chris Conte to the ground and rambled into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown.

McDonald caught just 14 passes for the Steelers last season after he was acquired in a trade from the 49ers. He’s never caught more than 30 passes in a season, but on Monday night he actually looked like an athletic tight end. If he keeps that up he has a real shot at being a legitimate threat to opposing defenses.

He caught another third-down pass for 12 yards to set up Boswell’s 36-yard field goal that gave the Steelers a 9-7 lead early in the second quarter.

In between McDonald’s pivotal receptions, the Steelers got more help from an unlikely source when Anthony Chickillo sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick to push the Bucs out of field-goal range and force them to punt.

After the Steelers took the lead, Mike Hilton terminated the Bucs’ next two drives. He recovered a fumble to give the Steelers a short field for Roethlisberger’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that increased the Steelers’ lead to 16-7. Then Hilton intercepted Fitzpatrick deep in Steelers territory.

An undrafted cornerback who bounced between the Jaguars and Patriots practice squads in 2016, Hilton was a find for the Steelers last year with four sacks and two interceptions. He showed last night that he can be more than just a one-year wonder as long as the elbow injury he suffered isn’t too serious.

Hilton’s pick came on a pass that was deflected by Jon Bostic. An inside linebacker signed as a free agent, Bostic was thrown into the vast void left by Ryan Shazier‘s injury. No one expects him to do what Shazier did, but he did plenty in this game, leading the Steelers in solo tackles with six and tackles for loss with two. He added a sack on the Bucs’ opening drive of the second half, giving him two for the year. That’s 40 percent of the sixth-year journeyman’s career total of five.

For the Steelers’ defense to improve, role players like Bostic and Hilton will need to keep contributing here and there. Terrell Edmunds and Bud Dupree, on the other hand, are first-round draft picks who are expected to be game-changing, impact players.

And they were in this game.

Hilton’s interception was the first of three straight Tampa Bay possessions that ended in picks. Edmunds, the rookie safety, picked off Fitzpatrick on the next drive, and then Dupree turned his first career interception into a 10-yard pick-six to make the score 23-7. Dupree also had a sack, his second of the season, on the Bucs’ first drive of the second half. That sack as well as Bostic’s on that drive ultimately helped preserve the win as the Bucs’ settled for a field goal. Dupree added 1.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hits to hush the “bust” talk for at least a week.

The first half fittingly ended with more production from the fringes of the roster. Ryan Switzer, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Cowboys last year and traded twice during the offseason, caught his first career touchdown pass to give the Steelers a 30-10 halftime lead.

Were it not for that touchdown, the Steelers wouldn’t have held on for the win. Their 29th-ranked defense allowed 17 second-half points and the penalties kept coming. The Steelers are the NFL’s most penalized team and it isn’t even close. According to nflpenalties.com, 37 penalties against them have been accepted this year. The Bills are second with 28. The Steelers have been penalized for 361 yards. The Eagles are second with 266.

For the Steelers to make the playoffs this year, the offense will have to keep lighting up the scoreboard and the defense will have to force turnovers to make up for its inability to stop anyone. The Steelers forced four turnovers Monday night, but when the takeaways don’t come it would help if the Steelers cleaned up these penalties. That seems more correctable than the talent shortcomings on defense.

The defense did force a three-and-out on the Buccaneers’ last possession, thanks partly to one of Joe Haden‘s three pass breakups. Having him back is a boost. Then the Steelers needed a couple of first downs to seal the win. The first came on a vintage Roethlisberger play. He slipped out of a Gerald McCoy sack and threw an 18-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Then James Conner‘s 17-yard run took them to the two-minute warning, and it was victory formation time.

While holding off the Buccaneers’ furious rally to win the game, the Steelers made a dramatic comeback themselves to win another game.

While it was easy to forget that Le’Veon Bell even existed in the first half, his holdout was starting to loom like a Florida storm cloud over the stadium in the second half. The Steelers couldn’t sustain drives to run out the clock, and Conner had gained just 12 yards on his first 10 carrries.

But Conner broke free for 27 yards to stall the Bucs’ momentum after they had just pulled to within 30-27. He followed that up with a nine-yard gain. The Steelers had to punt on that drive, but Conner’s game-clinching 17-yard gain capped a 51-yard outburst on his last five carries. It was redemption for his fumble in Cleveland and it gave the Steelers a few points in their public-opinion battle with Bell.

It would be very difficult for the Steelers to trade Bell, so they have to plan to be without him in 2018. If Bell thinks he’s sticking it to the Steelers by sitting out, well, they stuck it back to him with the way Conner closed out the victory.

And, really, for the Steelers to win more than just one game they’ll need to overcome problems that one star player alone can’t fix. However, several complementary players might be able to plug the holes on a week-to-week basis. That’s what happened on Monday night.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

Steelers can’t overcome another slow start at home, fall to Chiefs

When did the Steelers start thinking that they could just roll out of bed and win games at home?

The Steelers lost their second straight game at Heinz Field Sunday going back to last year’s AFC divisional playoff loss to the Jaguars.

The Chiefs defeated the Steelers 42-37. In this defeat and in the aforementioned 45-42 loss to the Jaguars, the Steelers started the game as if they were still in their pajamas.

The Chiefs became the second team in history to score 21 first-quarter points on the Steelers in Pittsburgh, jumping out to a 21-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game. The Jaguars nearly hung 21 on the Steelers in the first quarter in January, taking a 21-0 lead less than four minutes into the second quarter.

Visiting teams are scoring 21 points before the Heinz Field public address announcer has a chance to say that patrons must be 21 to purchase alcohol.

The Steelers drove their fans to drink with the following first-quarter lowlights:

  • After going backwards two yards on their first possession, the Steelers allowed DeAnthony Thomas to return the ensuing punt 31 yards to the Steelers’ 10-yard line to set up the first of Patrick Mahomes‘ six touchdown passes. The Steelers succeeded in keeping the ball away from dangerous return man Tyreek Hill, but forgot that the guy who does field the punt still has to be tackled, and Thomas caught the Steelers napping.
  • Ben Roethlisberger fumbled a snap on the Steelers’ next possession, which went three-and-out. That led to the first of Travis Kelce‘s two touchdown catches, giving the Chiefs a 14-0 lead before the Steelers’ first positive-yardage play.
  • Chris Boswell missed a 49-yard field goal to end the Steelers’ third possession. He’s missed both of his field-goal attempts this year and he missed an extra-point try on Sunday. Boswell was quite possibly the difference between 13-3 and 9-7 last season. A Boswell meltdown is a headache the Steelers don’t need right now.

The Chiefs would have had a 28-0 lead in the first quarter if the officials hadn’t bailed the Steelers out of their next pratfall. Justin Houston strip-sacked Roethlisberger deep in Steelers territory and Chris Jones recovered the fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. The play was nullified, however, when Orlando Scandrick was penalized for defensive holding.

The Steelers took advantage of that lifeline and tied the game in the second quarter. Throwing from his heels, Roethlisberger put the Steelers on the board with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James. He also threw touchdown passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. He was almost over the line of scrimmage on his 14-yard scoring pass to Washington.

Much like their playoff loss to Jacksonville, the Steelers’ rally had a playground sort of feel to it, like their entire offensive gameplan was drawn in the sand.

The defense, well, they did shut out the Chiefs in the second quarter.

Then in the second half, the Chiefs remembered they can use Hill on plays from scrimmage, too. The first play of the third quarter was a 36-yard pass to Hill that led to Kelce’s second touchdown. The Steelers answered with James Conner‘s 1-yard touchdown, but the Chiefs made it 35-28 with Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson.

We had always envisioned the defensively-challenged Steelers having to win shootouts like this. Don’t worry about the defense, the offense can carry this team.

Except that it didn’t.

The Steelers went three-and-out on their next possession and the Chiefs extended their lead to 42-28 on Mahomes’ 29-yard TD pass to Hill early in the fourth quarter.

During that drive, Antonio Brown showed he’s in midseason form by screaming at Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline. At least no Gatorade coolers were harmed. Mike Tomlin provided the sideline theatrics in the first half by giving his players a good ass-chewing after they had fallen behind 21-0. Um, maybe he should start doing that before games.

The whole Team Turmoil thing was an entertaining sideshow last year when the Steelers went 13-3, but this year the comedy will turn a lot darker if the Steelers (0-1-1) don’t start winning.

Speaking of turmoil, yeah, it might have helped Sunday if Le’Veon Bell was around. Conner crashed down to earth by gaining just 17 yards on eight carries. But if the Steelers don’t figure out a way to avoid falling behind 21-0 before all their home fans find their seats, they’ll need a lot more than Bell to become any kind of serious championship contender.

Entering the 2018 season, the Patriots and Jaguars looked like the biggest obstacles standing between the Steelers and the Super Bowl. Now the Chiefs have become one of those obstacles.

The Steelers had been a wall that the Chiefs couldn’t get over until Sunday. They ousted Kansas City in the playoffs two years ago and handed them their first loss last year.

So far it looks like Mahomes is the solution.

No other quarterback has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the first two games of a season, according to ESPN. The Chiefs moved up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft to take him at No. 10, then traded away Alex Smith this past offseason and handed Mahomes the keys to the offense.

Those moves look brilliant so far, the kind of moves that have altered the AFC power structure much like the Jaguars’ hiring of Tom Coughlin as executive vice president before the 2017 season.

Before last season’s AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz, the NFL Network showed Coughlin walking into the stadium. The Steelers had been tweeting away about their inevitable rematch with the Patriots, and there was Coughlin, no-nonsense personified, reporting for work. It was an ominous scene for the Steelers.

The Steelers thought they could just show up and win that day, and it looks like that’s what they thought on Sunday.

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Tie looks better on Browns than it does on Steelers

Perhaps you’ve heard a million or so times that the Steelers have had only three head coaches since 1969.

Well now, they’ve had three ties during that same time period after playing to a 21-21 stalemate with the Browns in Sunday’s 2018 season opener at Cleveland.

Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher both have one tie on their resumés, and now Mike Tomlin can put himself in the same class as those coaching legends.

He must be thrilled.

Rare as they are, when ties do happen they leave us wondering how we’re supposed to feel. It’s not a win. It’s not a loss. It’s quite literally something in between.

In this case, it’s a lot closer to a loss for the Steelers and it’s a lot closer to a win for the Browns.

This is the first time the Steelers have failed to defeat the Browns in a game since 2014. It’s also the first time the Browns haven’t lost a game to any opponent since Week 16 of the 2016 season.

There’s also this whole blown-lead thing on the Steelers’ side. They led 21-7 with 7:44 remaining when James Conner fumbled and Jabrill Peppers returned it 36 yards to the Steelers’ 1-yard line to set up a touchdown that got the Browns back in the game.

It’s unfair, of course, that the first mention of Conner involves his fumble. Replacing holdout Le’Veon Bell, Conner ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 57 yards. That’s 192 all-purpose yards. Bell has surpassed that only six times in his career, according to Pro Football Reference.

For more than 52 minutes Sunday, Conner was helping the Steelers beat both of their opponents.

What other opponent did the Steelers face other than the Browns?

Well, until Bell ends his holdout, the Steelers will be up against not only the opponents on their schedule but also Bell. If the Steelers struggle, then refusing to meet Bell’s contract demands will look like a bad idea. If they can win games without him, it will show that they’ll be ready to move on when some other team signs him to the megadeal of his dreams.

Does Bell win Round 1 of this standoff because of Conner’s fumble? It’s hard to say because this particular game isn’t decided on a scoreboard. Like the tie between the Steelers and Browns, we’re left wrestling with mixed emotions when it comes to Conner’s performance.

Would Bell have fumbled in that situation? Who knows? But it’s not like he hasn’t let the Steelers down before. This is the fourth time in his career that he’s missed Week 1. He missed two other openers because of suspensions.

Despite the fumble, the Steelers come out of Sunday’s game looking OK on the Bell front. And there is plenty of blame to go around, like Ben Roethlisberger‘s three first-half interceptions and his inability to hold on to the ball on two of his four sacks. It’s not like he hasn’t been sacked before.

Myles Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, had two sacks and forced two fumbles, including Conner’s game-changing fumble. Garrett vowed that he was coming for Roethlisberger on the day he was drafted, and with both players finally on the field at the same time Garrett backed up his words.

Garrett is someone the Steelers will have to deal with if they want to keep the upper hand in this rivalry, but let’s not forget that T.J. Watt had four sacks Sunday. That’s the most by a Steeler in a single game since Joey Porter had four at Tampa Bay in 2001. It’s also the first time the Steelers have failed to win a game when a player gets four sacks.

The Steelers had seven sacks as a team and allowed the Browns to convert just five of 18 third-down attempts. One of the touchdowns the defense allowed came when the Browns took Conner’s fumble to the 1-yard line. The defense doesn’t look like the kind of liability that it was after Ryan Shazier went down last year.

That improvement was in vain, however, because of the Steelers’ sloppiness on offense. It also didn’t help that the Steelers committed 116 yards worth of penalties.

They’ll need to clean up their act, because their Week 2 and Week 3 opponents pulled off upsets on Sunday over teams that got a lot of preseason hype. The Chiefs, who come to Heinz Field on Sunday, defeated the Chargers 38-28 at Los Angeles. The Buccaneers,who the Steelers visit on Monday Night Football in Week 3, won 48-40 at New Orleans.

That first win won’t be easy to get.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.