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Steelers: What we learned

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A week after hammering the NFL in court, Tom Brady did the same thing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It was a pretty special night, so I was excited,” Brady said after throwing four touchdown passes, three to tight end Rob Gronkowski, while powering the New England Patriots to a 28-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opening game of the NFL season Thursday night.

On Sept. 3, Brady had his four-game Deflategate suspension overturned by Judge Richard Berman in a Manhattan courtroom.

Brady came out for pregame jog and pumped his fist at a crowd that would chant his name on several occasions throughout the game, which was played after the Patriots unveiled their fourth Super Bowl banner. Had the suspension been upheld, the club was prepared to hoist a different banner, one with Brady’s No. 12 on it.

However, he played — and he completed a franchise-record 19 consecutive passes, three for touchdowns, on four scoring drives. After the streak ended, Brady hit Gronkowski with a 1-yarder with 9:20 left to stem a Pittsburgh rally.

Gronkowski had his third three-TD game, making five catches for 94 yards. Wide receiver Julian Edelman finished with 11 catches for 97 yards. Both of them sat out the preseason, Edelman with an injury and Gronkowski because he just isn’t sent out for exhibitions.

After the game, Edelman called Gronkowski “a beast.”

Brady, who set an NFL record with his 161st victory with one team, finished 25 of 32 for 288 yards and his 23rd career four-touchdown game.

What we learned about the Steelers:

1. The Steelers have serious defensive problems. This is really nothing new, but it is something that really wasn’t addressed. In the opener Thursday night, there were times they just had no one on tight end Rob Gronkowski, probably the most dangerous player in the NFL. He was open on his first touchdown and open again on a 52-yard completion late in the game.

2. Regardless of the situation, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a true horse who can never be counted out of a football game. He was missing running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant but threw for 351 yards, something New England coach Bill Belichick said is a given for the Steelers.

3. Josh Scobee had the fifth-lowest field-goal percentage in the NFL last year, but he is a kicker who tries many from long distance. On Thursday night, he missed wide right from both 44 and 46 yards with kicks that could have changed the complexion of the game.

Etc.

–QB Ben Roethlisberger, playing without RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant (both suspended), had a good night in the Steelers’ 28-21 opening loss to the Patriots. He was 26-for-38 for 351 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. He might have had a better chance to win the game had it not been for two missed field goals by K Josh Scobee in the first half. He was also the victim of a couple of strange play calls. “There are no excuses,” he said. “I think guys stepped up great tonight.”

–RB DeAngelo Williams, in his first game with his new team and the lead runner with Le’Veon Bell out via suspension, was outstanding in his debut, gaining 127 yards on 21 carries and adding one catch for 5 yards. “Awesome,” QB Ben Roethlisberger said. “I thought he stepped up and did great things for the first time out there with a lot of outside question marks, but we believed in him the whole time. We were confident in what he could do.” Said Williams: “It was not bad, but I was not happy with the outcome.”

–WR Antonio Brown is just one of those special players. On Thursday, he torched Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for nine catches on 10 targets head to head, and he gained 137 yards overall, with a long of 33. Brown extended his NFL record by recording his 33rd consecutive game with at least five catches and 50 yards.


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