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Steelers win season opener 26-16 over Giants

It took the Steelers a little while to get started for openers, but once the defense provided a spark, the offense responded.

The first takeaway of the season was provided by outside linebacker T.J. Watt early in the second quarter, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger began throwing touchdown passes soon thereafter, and the Steelers rallied from a couple of early deficits and eventually put the Giants away, 26-16, on Monday night at MetLife Stadium.

"I thought they showed their mettle," head coach Mike Tomlin assessed. "I thought they were physically tough, mentally tough, but we gotta do some things better.

"I appreciate the effort, we just gotta search for a higher ceiling."

Watt's fourth career interception gave the Steelers possession at the Giants' 36-yard line with 12:35 left in the second quarter and the home team leading, 10-3.

Roethlisberger kept the possession alive with an 18-yard completion to tight end Eric Ebron on third-and-5 from the Giants' 31 and then finished it with a touchdown pass under duress to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on third-and-7 from the New York 10. Running back Benny Snell's blitz pick-up on safety Jabrill Peppers helped give Roethlisberger just enough time to find Smith-Schuster running across the end zone.

Kicker Chris Boswell's extra point attempt hit the right upright and the Giants maintained the lead at 10-9, but not for long. 

Two possessions later the Steelers had 78 yards to traverse in the final 1:32 prior to halftime following a punt.

They needed 1:25 to achieve their first lead of the season.

Roethlisberger hit wide receiver James Washington for 21, Smith-Schuster for 17 and Smith-Schuster for 14 before scrambling for 11 and a first down at the Giants' 13 with 14 seconds left before halftime.

From there, a slant to Washington turned into a catch-and-run touchdown when Washington accepted Roethlisberger pass at the 10, split safeties Adrian Colbert and Julian Love at the 2 and kept driving through Love and over the goal line.

A successful conversion from Boswell upped the Steelers' lead to 16-10 just before the teams headed to their locker rooms at the break.

"It brought back memories," Smith-Schuster said of the two-minute march.

Roethlisberger finished 21-for-32 passing for 229 yards and three scores. He tied Eli Manning for eighth place in NFL history with 366 career touchdown passes.

"I feel great right now," said Roethlisberger, who is coming off elbow surgery after missing 14 of 16 games in 2019. "I'm gonna be sore tomorrow but in terms of the elbow and everything else I feel really good."

Snell ended up with 19 carries for 113 yards on the ground after replacing running back James Conner (ankle).

Tomlin said Conner and injured offensive linemen Zach Banner (knee) and Stefen Wisniewski (pec) were being evaluated but had no further details.

Another takeaway preserved the lead in the third quarter.

The Giants drove from their 9 to the Steelers' 4 on a 19-play march that consumed 8:50 and featured four third-down conversions and another advancing of the chains on a fourth down. But on second-and-3 outside linebacker Bud Dupree pressured quarterback Daniel Jones on a play-action bootleg left and deflected Jones' pass into the end zone. Defensive tackle Cam Heyward ended up coming down with the wobbly ball just inside the end zone for his first career interception.

The offense turned that takeaway into a nine-play, 62-yard march that ended with Boswell's second field goal of the night, this one from 36 yards away, and a 19-10 Steelers' lead early in the fourth quarter.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley was limited to 6 yards on 15 carries (a 0.4 average per attempt).

"We just wanted to smash the run first and foremost," Watt said.

A Steelers' defense that was burned on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton in the second quarter otherwise swarmed. Inside linebacker Vince Williams, outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi, Dupree (twice) and nose tackle Tyson Alualu (twice) had tackles for a loss against Barkley in the first half.

The Steelers totaled 11 TFLs overall, led by Williams' three.

Smith-Schuster's second TD reception of the night, an 8-yard grab on third-and-4, and Boswell's second PAT put the Steelers up 26-10 with 5:23 left in regulation.

The Giants closed the scoring on a 7-yard TD pass from Jones to Slayton with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter (New York's two-point conversion attempt failed).

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 1 game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium

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