NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Post Steelers at Cleveland thoughts

September 10, 2017
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) celebrates a first down catch as Cleveland Browns defensive back Jason McCourty (30) watches during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

There was plenty of sloppiness in the Steelers’ season-opening victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday as Pittsburgh looked like a team that hadn’t had its whole crew on the field much in the preseason.

That was certainly the case and it showed.

But a win is a win. And if you need any reminding of that, look at New England.

Think the Patriots would have been happy to escape Week 1 with a win?

@ That said, the Steelers have plenty to work on, starting with the penalties.

The team was penalized 13 times for 144 yards making it difficult to get anything going offensively. And several of the penalties kept Cleveland drives alive.

There was a lot of angst early on with the play calling of Todd Haley, who was dialing up a lot of bubble screens.

But those were plays to kind of feel out the defense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they couldn’t stop holding on them.

@ Stephon Tuitt looked like he was going to have himself a day, nearly sacking rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer on the game’s first play, then blowing up running back Isaiah Crowell for a 9-yard loss on the second.

But he injured his left arm on that series and had to leave the game.

Tuitt, who signed a six-year, $60-million contract extension Saturday, left the locker room with his shoulder in a wrap Sunday and will be evaluated in Pittsburgh Monday. But it doesn’t look like it will be good news.

This is why it was such a big deal for the Steelers to go out and sign Tyson Alualu in the offseason.

@ The Steelers had seven sacks in this game without Tuitt and linebacker Bud Dupree, who did not play with a shoulder injury of his own.

Outside linebackers Anthony Chickillo and rookie T.J. Watt had two each.

And the Steelers could have easily had three or four more.

The pass rush looks like it could be fearsome. Then again, Kizer was holding onto the ball a lot and he just missed some open receivers at times.

Still, the defensive effort was solid. Cleveland’s running backs gained just 40 yards on 20 rushing attempts.

@ The Steelers didn’t run the ball much, or well, either.

Le’Veon Bell had 32 yards on 10 carries and James Conner had 11 yards on four attempts.

I thought Bell looked like his usual self running with the ball, but Ben Roethlisberger missed him on a couple of throws in the passing game.

The timing was just off there.

Cleveland did a nice job of filling the gaps in the run game and got away with playing a good bit single-high safety.

While Bell missed all of training camp and the preseason, the offensive line did, as well, as a group. And it showed in this game.

@ Anyone who had any question about who the best receiver in the NFL might be need only turn on the tape of this game.

It’s Antonio Brown.

Julio Jones is a close second, but Brown just catches everything.

@ The Steelers still have some issues in their secondary. But with so many new and moving parts, that might be expected.

I think it will get better moving forward.

@ Roethlisberger, particularly in the first half, also looked like a player who hadn’t played much in the preseason.

He wasn’t just off throwing the ball to Bell, he was a little off at times overall.

But he also had some throws that looked like vintage Roethlisberger, his first TD pass to Jesse James among them.

This being a road game, it was not all that unexpected. At least the Steelers were able to win while the team kind of shook off the collective rust.

@ Speaking of James, it looks like he won’t be turning things over to newcomer Vance McDonald anytime soon.

While MCDonald was dropping the only pass thrown his way in thsi game, James was hauling in six passes, including both Pittsburgh offensive touchdowns.

@ Mike Mitchell split some time with new safety J.J. Wilcox but said it was by design.

Mitchell, of course, missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, while Wilcox just joined the team last Sunday.

The Steelers apparently had Mitchell on a pitch count and wanted to get Wilcox up to speed.

Of course, if Wilcox keeps knocking himself out - as he did when he hit Corey Coleman on Cleveland’s final touchdown - he’s not going to endear himself to the coaching staff.

Wilcox will probably be looking a fine this week for that hit - which was penalized.

@ On the subject of penalized hits, William Gay’s hit on Ricardo Louis deserved a penalty and also will likely draw a fine.

But the official on top of the play initially reached for his flag and then didn’t throw it. In fact, no flag was thrown until the play was shown again in the stadium.

And then the flag came out, 30 seconds after the play had ended.

That’s not supposed to happen.

@ The Steelers gave Joe Haden a game ball after this one. Haden, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with Cleveland, had never before won a game to open a season.

He finished the game with six tackles, a sack and a pass defensed. But he also was fortunate a couple of times in coverage, as well, when guys were overthrown.

That’s all part of playing corner in the NFL.

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