When one thinks of it, we should all be lucky that 2020 did not take away the game of football from all of us. There was point in the year when many of us believed that there would be no season, as we continue to survive during this pandemic.
This offseason saw a Pittsburgh Steelers team adjust to new COVID-19 protocols, in addition to the absence of OTAs and preseason games. Despite our awareness of these changes, the expectation of a Steelers victory in week 1, is one of the few things that never changed.
To say the least, the Steelers struggled out of the gate. Firstly, a muffed punt by receiver Diontae Johnson, which the New York Giants recovered, placing them on their goaline. Running back James Conner had arguably the weakest performance his career. In addition to the numerous dropped passes, he was ineffective when running the ball. In Conner's defense, the Steelers offensive line barely withstood the Giants' pressure, giving him little room to run. Then there was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who openly admitted to having the "jitters" prior to this contest, at times resembled a rookie playing his first game.
The defense was much sharper than the offense in the first half, yet made costly mistakes. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones continuously exploited the middle of the defense and the flats. His efforts would eventually pay dividends at the midpoint of the second quarter, when he found receiver Darius Slayton deep to take a 10-3 lead. In essence, the early portion of game bore a striking resemblance to their disastrous season opener against the New England Patriots last season, as they outplayed the Steelers on both sides of the ball.
The ebbs and flows of momentum in a game can be an interesting dynamic. Sometimes all it takes is one play; for the Steelers, it came in the form of a TJ Watt interception. From that point, it seemed that the entire team found new life. Late in the second quarter, Roethlisberger was masterful in the two-minute drill, which ended with a touchdown pass to James Washington.
In the second half, Johnson got his groove back and started making key plays down the stretch. Above all, the Giants felt the full force of "Benny Snell football", as he pounded the run and punished their defense, finishing the game with over 100 rushing yards for the first time in his NFL career.
By no means was this game an oil painting, but perhaps that was the beauty of it. Despite a chaotic beginning, the Steelers showed the type of resilience which is prerequisite for teams aspiring to win a Superbowl. Considering the numerous injuries in this contest, more specifically to their offensive linemen, they are going to need that same mindset for their next contest, and for the remainder of this season if they want to return back to the playoffs.