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Postgame Takes

Tomlin on team win, splash, 'D' and more

Strong finish: There are times you hear it's not how you start, it's how you finish that matters.

On Sunday in Buffalo, how the Steelers finished is definitely what mattered.

After opening the game down 10-3, including giving up a 75-yard return on the opening kickoff that led to a Bills field goal, things changed fast. The Steelers defense shut the door, while the offense came to life in the second half, bouncing back to defeat the Bills, 23-16, and open the season 1-0.

Coach Mike Tomlin expected it to be a battle, and he wasn't wrong.

"We knew what type of day we were going to have here from an environmental standpoint, not only just in terms of the crowd, but the new pieces we had on offense, young guys and so forth," said Tomlin. "We didn't start great. We gave up a kickoff to start the game off. I thought the defense's ability to kind of quell that and hold them to three was significant, but we just faced a lot of challenges today.

"Robert Spillane got hurt in warmups. We had to make the last second adjustment. Buddy Johnson got an opportunity to play in his first NFL game, he didn't even anticipate doing so.

"It's a great team victory. I'm appreciative of their efforts. Hopefully it's a sign of what we're capable of from a will standpoint. But one week in is not going to write your story. It's just good to come into an environment against AFC giant if you will, defending AFC East champs, and get a win in September. Just really thankful for it."

Splash play: The offense, defense and special teams all came up big against the Bills, with contributions coming from every direction.

One of the biggest plays came when Miles Killebrew blocked Matt Haack's punt on fourth-and-12 from the Bills' 23-yard line. Ulysees Gilbert III picked it up and returned it nine yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 20-10 lead.

"I'm appreciative of the efforts of Miles, who had the block and UG, who had the scoop and score," said Tomlin. "We needed a splash play like that. We spotted them three to start the game. At halftime I heard a lot of the core special teams players Derek Watt and others saying that we had to even the score from that perspective. We needed splash in that phase of the game, and boy they delivered and delivered big."

Style points don't matter: There were moments in the first half when things weren't looking pretty for the Steelers offense, but it didn't have to be pretty for Tomlin.

It just had to be one thing in the end.

A win.

"You know we're not worried about style points, we'll let you guys write whatever stories you want to write," said Tomlin. "We knew it would be tough sledding. They've got a great defense. They've got continuity, not only in players but schematics. We're playing them in their place. We had a bunch of new pieces.

"We weren't style point oriented today. We just had to win this game."

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium

Bluntly honest: Tomlin kept it simple.

"We just played Steelers D," he said after the game.

But playing 'Steelers D,' means one thing. Playing menacing defense for 60 minutes. And they delivered, from top to bottom.

"We played a lot of people today, we rolled a lot of people," said Tomlin. "We knew we had to, particularly on defense. We figured that we might not have great fluidity on offense in terms of starting, so we couldn't allow our defense to wear down. I can't say enough about the number of people that we played up front, and the way that they collectively got after (Josh Allen). Those three edge guys that you guys have been asking a lot about, (T.J.) Watt, (Alex) Highsmith and (Melvin) Ingram, they delivered today, along with others, obviously Cam Hayward and so forth.

"We just played Steelers D. They're a challenging group, but I've got an expectation that our defensive unit is going to be in every football game. And I'm just being bluntly honest."

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