Publish date:

Flavell's Five Thoughts: Big Ben Leads Steelers to Week 1 Win

James Conner, Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers defense fill up Week 1's takeaways.

We made it, everyone. Football's first week is in the books, and the Pittsburgh Steelers got a nice 26-16 victory over the New York Giants to kick off their 2020 season.

There are tons to take away from this game so without further ado, let's dive in and discuss.

Roethlisberger looks like he never left

Don't get me wrong, Roethlisberger's first half looked a bit rusty. He even admitted over the weekend that he expected there to be some rust. However, it was nothing the 38-year old couldn't shake.

The Steelers had a two-minute drill to end the first half that was capped off by a James Washington touchdown. During that drive, Roethlisberger went 5-of-7 for 67 yards. He also had an 11-yard rush to get the Steelers into the red zone. Once he led the Steelers on this touchdown drive proceeding halftime, it felt like Vintage Ben was back.

Don't get me wrong; the Giants aren't the toughest challenge the Steelers will face in 2020. But, that doesn't mean Roethlisberger wasn't tested.

Roethlisberger ended the game 21-of-32 passing with 229 yards and added three touchdowns to his stat line.

There weren't many highlight-reel plays on Monday evening. However, Roethlisberger looked comfortable. He found himself back in control of an offense that could be a problem for defenses if things continue to click.

For his first game back in 364 days, Big Ben looked to be motivated and ready to help the Steelers make a run at the division, and maybe more, this season.

Time to forget the bell cow RB nonsense

I feel pretty confident in saying that James Conner won't be a Steeler after 2020. It just doesn't seem all that feasible for the franchise regardless of the type of season Conner produces.

Monday night, Conner suffered what is believed to be a sprained ankle. Conner exited the game early, and Benny Snell Jr. took over the running back duties and quite literally ran with them.

Snell finished the game with 113 yards on 19 carries for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. That's impressive.

Even in limited game action last season, the 2019 Steelers draft selection looked fairly solid. Snell is a bulky back whose speed is relatively underrated. He showed that burst on a few occasions Monday, including a 30-yard rush in the fourth quarter that put the Steelers in prime position to score their third touchdown and put the game out of reach.

Conner ran the ball six times for a grand total of nine yards. That's unacceptable for the guy that is supposed to be your main running back.

Snell has given head coach Mike Tomlin every reason to see more of the field. A lot of teams around the league have found more success in the running game using multiple backs. Assuming Conner doesn't miss time, I'd like to see Snell used to spell Conner more often.

If things continue to trend up for Snell, I wouldn't be surprised if he outright takes the chunk of the carries, either.

JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson duo will be a lot of fun

Obviously, this hinges on the health of Roethlisberger, but I want to see even more of this Smith-Schuster/Johnson duo for the Steelers.

Smith-Schuster got in on the action early and often Monday night, catching six passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. While Johnson didn't catch any touchdowns, he added six catches of his own for 57 yards.

Most of Johnson's catches came in the second half when Smith-Schuster began garnering more attention. While neither receiver broke off any huge plays, they accounted for more than half of Roethlisberger's completions and were reliable all night long.

As the season goes on, the Steelers will try and find their top receivers on deeper "go" routes. Monday was more about easing Roethlisberger back into things.

Smith-Schuster catching touchdowns wasn't much of a casual occurrence last season. He caught 16% of his reception total from 2019, in this game alone. Having Roethlisberger tossing him the pigskin will certainly boost his stats.

While Johnson posted respectable numbers with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges last season, he'll also enjoy a nice uptick if Big Ben continues to enjoy good health.

The front seven will be a problem for offenses

Saquon Barkley is a massive running back who has the potential to be one of the best in the league. Unfortunately, his offensive line held him back in his rookie campaign last season. They aren't going to be much better in 2020.

However, a lackluster offensive line doesn't diminish how dominant the Steelers' front-7 looked in week one.

Javon Hargrave is the only 2019 starter that didn't return to this season's defense. He rightfully found greener pastures in Philadelphia, signing with the Eagles. Taking his place is a former first-round draft pick in Tyson Alualu, an 11-year veteran in the league. That's a very formidable replacement.

The Steelers front-7 garnered three sacks of quarterback Daniel Jones. T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward even pitched in both intercepting a pass. As a unit, they put up a great day's worth of stats on the stat sheet.

However, that isn't even their most impressive feat. They managed to hold Barkley to six yards on 15 carries, which equates to less than a yard per carry. For a talent like that to be held to such a low number, that's impressive regardless of the offensive line.

As a whole, the Giants rushed for 29 yards. 22 of those yards came from Jones. Dion Lewis added one rushing yard on a single carry.

Pittsburgh's bread-and-butter this season was always going to be defense. They made sure to remind everyone of that by shutting down the Giants' run-game unequivocally.

Outside of Roethlisberger, nothing was more important than a Week 1 win

With the victory, the Steelers made sure to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens after their trouncing of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon. It's really early to be division watching, but that doesn't mean it's not important to keep pace.

Starting the season off on a high note really sets the tone for the rest of the year. Next weekend provides another winnable game against the Denver Broncos. Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed ever, but when you're considered a favorite, you would be best off winning said game.

The win moved Tomlin's Monday Night Football record time 16-2. Something about prime time football has always motivated the Steelers. Getting the opportunity to open their season playing the east coast side of the doubleheader and obtaining a win is a tone-setter.

Buckle up, Pittsburgh. You could be in for a wildly fun season.

Cody Flavell is a Contributor with AllSteelers. Follow Cody on Twitter @Cody_625, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.