Something to build upon

In the end it was a double-digit victory on the road for openers, one highlighted by a swarming defense holding one of the best ball-carriers in the business to 6 yards rushing, an ability on the part of the visitors to protect the football and to take it away, and the franchise quarterback throwing three touchdown passes in his triumphant return from elbow surgery.

But it wasn't perfect.

Head coach Mike Tomlin, after running down the injuries and expressing the Steelers' gratitude to have been able to play at all given the circumstances, acknowledged some of the "sloppiness" that needs to be cleaned up in the wake of Steelers 26, Giants 16 on Monday night in the swamps of Jersey:

"We dropped a punt early. We got penalized on a third-and-long and extended the drive. They scored on the next play. We kicked off out of bounds. We didn't start with great fluidity on offense."

It was first-game stuff, to be certain.

But that doesn't mean such transgressions will be acceptable when the Steelers open the Heinz Field portion of their schedule on Sunday against Denver.

"All of those things are reasonable to expect, to expect us to get better," Tomlin stressed, "and get better in a hurry."

The corrections the Steelers will be after are subtle as well as obvious.

"There was rust early and even late," Roethlisberger said of a performance that produced three touchdown passes, no interceptions and a passer rating of 117.8. "It's not like I played perfect.

"I looked at some times that maybe I got up in the pocket a little too quick or didn't have the same feel in the pocket early on that I'm probably used to having.

"I think that just comes with not getting hit, even in practice. Yeah, you have a pocket and you step up but defenders aren't hitting you in practice so you kinda lose some of that feel of where you can slide, where you can step.

"I think that'll come back the more reps and the more plays and the more games you get into."

The Broncos will be after fewer dropped passes by rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, more accuracy from quarterback Drew Lock on deep passes and better clock management at the end of the game, if necessary.

All were acknowledged in Denver as factors in what became a season-opening, 16-14 loss to Tennessee on Monday night.

None were gaffes to which the Broncos should over-react, Lock maintained.

"That's not a Jerry Jeudy thing to happen," he said of the two balls Jeudy, a first-round pick from Alabama, dropped in his NFL debut. "To me it's nothing that we should really take our time on more than we already have addressed it. We talked about it, he apologized. He was upset. He was hurt.

"But that would be like missing layups in basketball. Yeah, OK, I missed a couple. That's just not going to happen again. You don't go addressing a guy about missing layups, that's not a thing you do. And thats not a thing we would overly address to Jerry. Yeah, he made some drops but let's go out here next week, let's keep getting better."

Lock, likewise, expects better from himself with regard to being on target more often.

"Just a couple of slices on the golf course," he said. "You're used to piping it down the middle and sometimes you hit a slice. I just happened to hit three in back-to-back-to-back holes.

"I'll hit the driving range this week and try to straighten it back out and get the guys going and get a couple downfield."

Already, injuries are a factor on both sides.

The Steelers began getting ready for Denver knowing right offensive tackle Zach Banner (knee) wouldn't be playing. And the Broncos commenced preparations understanding they'd be without starting cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder), and uncertain if or to what extent running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and wide receiver Courtland Sutton would be available.

That much hasn't changed in the NFL.

Next man up.

And do better the next time than the last time.