Joe Haden won his first ever NFL season opener on Sunday afternoon.
Haden’s first season opener win was a dramatic one, too. Only a Pittsburgh Steeler for less than two weeks, Haden and the Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns, 21-18.
The importance? The Browns cut Haden, prompting the Steelers to make a move.
Haden wasn’t the only defensive star for the Steelers on Sunday.
The Steelers’ first round selection in the NFL Draft, T.J. Watt, opened up his NFL career with two sacks, five solo tackles and one interception against Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer.
“I was dropping back in coverage and it came right to me,” Watt said. “Once I caught it, I just tried not to fumble it.”
Anthony Chickillo, outside linebacker, also had a day on defense – and special teams. Chickillo recorded two sacks on Kizer and also scored the opening touchdown of the game, blocking a punt by Browns punter Britton Colquitt.
Chickillo also had four solo tackles and two assisted tackles.
“A great win for us, an AFC North road game in week one versus a worthy and hostile opponent,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “We’re excited about getting the job done. We’ve got some work to do. It’s great to do that work with a win in your back pocket.
On offense, wide receiver Antonio Brown was firing on all cylinders. Brown led the wide receivers with 11 receptions for 182 yards. Brown didn’t record a touchdown, but his longest haul was for 50 yards.
“It’s not our first rodeo,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “I see AB go and I’m going to take that shot. I’ve got all the trust in the world in him, he’s got it in me. I don’t think there are any two guys who have worked together more than him and I do. So, it’s fun to watch him play and be on the same team with him.”
Instead, scoring offensive touchdowns was Jesse James. The “Outlaw” scored both touchdowns in the game, and finished with six receptions for 41 yards.
On special teams, Chris Boswell converted all three extra point attempts. Boswell was never called on to attempt a field goal.
The Steelers were less effective on the ground. Running back Le’Veon Bell made his first appearance in a Steelers uniform by rushing for 32 yards on 10 carries. Rookie running back James Conner only rushed four times, earning 11 yards.
Roethlisberger completed 24/36 passes for 263 yards. Roethlisberger found James twice in the end zone, but also found Browns safety Derrick Kindred for an interception.
As for Kizer, he completed 20/30 passes for 222 yards, and threw one touchdown to Corey Coleman. Kizer also rushed for 17 yards on five carries, including a touchdown run.
Of note for the Steelers, defensive end Stephon Tuitt left the game with an injury to his biceps. According to the Steelers, he will be re-evaluated. The team will provide updated information on him on Tuesday.
The Steelers will open up their home season on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The game will kick off at 1 p.m.
Issa catch. pic.twitter.com/CavdpdrO0G
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 10, 2017
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