Week 2 Blog: News and Notes

Saturday, September 16

Making sure they execute: It's a word that has been reiterated in the Steelers locker room this past week after the Steelers loss to the 49ers in the season opener.


Player after player commented about execution being the issue in the loss, and it's something they are out to correct this week against the Browns, so they never have to reiterate it again.

"Execution," echoed safety Keanu Neal. "Having a deep understanding of the details and really just playing our game. That is really it.

"I think we had a good plan in place. We just didn't execute that plan as well as we should have. That ultimately hurts us when we have tips and tales of what the opposing team is planning on doing in certain situations and we don't execute in those situations based on the plan that is given to us. That hurts us. That execution piece is big."

Neal isn't sure why execution was an issue, whether it was a new group of players working together for the first time in the regular season or not. What he does know, is it's time to make it right.

"It's tough to say. I just know that from an execution standpoint we didn't do as well as we should have, myself included," said Neal. "That is something I need to make sure I improve on, as well as the rest of the team. We plan on doing that, focusing on Cleveland, and getting going for sure.

"Don't get me wrong, the Niners are an awesome team. But when we do things from an execution standpoint that aren't beneficial, we hurt ourselves. We don't put ourselves in position to win that fight. That is one thing that needs to be focused on."

And it has been focused on this week, through practice and mainly watching film.

"You watch film, see where the mistakes were and grow from it," said Neal. "You learn, grow from it and you move forward with those nuggets you learned from the film. That ultimately helps."

The Steelers are going to have no choice but to execute on Monday night against a Browns team that has multiple weapons on offense, including quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"He is a dynamic player," said Neal. "He is a great runner. Great with his legs. He passes the ball well. He is still a great player for sure."

Another major aspect of their offense is running back Nick Chubb, who Coach Mike Tomlin referred to as Mr. Chubb throughout his press conference on Tuesday. The Browns have traditionally gone with the ground game, and with Chubb, Neal understands why.

"They've got Chubb back there, so who wouldn't," said Neal. "They have a dynamic running game. They are one of the teams that enjoy that piece of the game.

"Chubb is downhill. He is a pounder for sure. Hard to tackle. But it's always good to go against guys who are challenging."

Just being me: The talk of the town, or at least the talk in the Steelers locker room, this week has been heavily focused on injuries, with defensive tackle Cameron Heyward placed on the Reserve/Injured List on Thursday.

With Heyward out, it will be up to others to step to the plate, including defensive tackle Armon Watts.

"For me, it's just doing what I have been doing," said Watts. "I am not trying to go out there and be Superman. I am not trying to go out there and be Cam or Larry O (Ogunjobi). I have been around for a while. I know my weaknesses. I know my strengths. Just go out there and be me.

"I think the older you get in this league, you know what works best for you. Once you find out what that is, work on it every day. Perfect it to a point where it sticks out on tape, and you can become productive with it."

The Steelers are known to use a rotation on the defensive line, something that is beneficial when injuries such as the one to Heyward occur.

"It's always good when you have a d-line room that is deep," said Watts. "You can keep guys fresh. We can learn from each other. Like Coach (Mike) Tomlin always says, the standard is the standard so there is no drop off of talent or effort. It's a good thing."

Watts signed with the Steelers this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Watts, who is in his fifth season in the NFL, was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the 190th overall selection. He spent his first three seasons in the league with the Vikings and the 2022 season with the Chicago Bears.

He played in all 17 games in 2022 for the Bears, starting 13. He finished the season with 35 tackles, 18 of them solo stops, four tackles for a loss and one sack.
While with the Vikings he played in 40 games in three seasons, starting 10. He recorded 91 tackles, 44 of them solo hits, seven sacks, three tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and one pass defensed.

Against the 49ers he was inactive, so if he plays this week, it will be his first action in black and gold.

"I am always excited to step on the field," said Watts. "I am the new guy in the room. I am going on year five, started a lot of games, played in a lot of games. Last week for me I took it as a learning experience. I got to go out there and watch those guys, how they play this defense and prepare for this week.

"When the opportunity presents itself, you make the most of it. I knew my opportunity would come quickly. I am ready for it. I have been ready for it. I have been in this situation before and have been successful. I am very excited."

Go hard: There is a fine line between trying to step up when a player is injured and trying to do too much.

Linebacker Markus Golden has seen both and knows the most important thing every player on defense has to do this week is just go hard.

"You have to step it up a little more," said Golden. "You can't replace a guy like Cam Heyward, who has been here his whole career, who has been leading here. He is a great leader. I can tell you that from my short time here.

"What you have to do is just go hard and represent for him. Do what you know he would be doing if he was here, and that is knowing your plays. Going at a hard level. Making sure your teammates fly around, get to the ball with you. That is more of the focus, because you know you can't replace him."

Golden is among those who is ready to help the younger defensive linemen this week, including guys like DeMarvin Leal and Keeanu Benton, who will be part of the group asked to step up in Heyward's absence.

"Those young guys listen. They all listen," said Golden. "They are easy to talk to. They ask a lot of good questions. It's normal. I am always helping them out. They ask T.J. (Watt), they ask Alex (Highsmith). They come to work every day. I know they are going to be ready and prepared just from the work they put in."

Missing Cam: Not only will the Steelers defense be without star defensive lineman Cam Heyward in the near future, so will the guy whose locker happens to be located next to his at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

That does not, however, mean that Connor Heyward isn't keeping tabs on his big brother, who had surgery this week to repair a groin injury.

"He's doing better. I saw him yesterday," Connor Heyward said Saturday as the Steelers wrapped up their preparations for Monday night's game at Acrisure Stadium against the Cleveland Browns.

"He was moving around. I'm like, 'Slow down.' He's like, 'I'm good.' He already wants to be out here. I know he misses being here. Hopefully, we can hold it down until he gets back and we're on a win streak by then."

Now in his second season with the Steelers, Connor Heyward might have a hand in making that happen.
A fullback/tight end, Connor Heyward and the Steelers offense can help the team's defense out for the games in which it will be missing the elder Heyward by possessing the football and keeping the defense off the field.

That means running the ball effectively and limiting the opposing team's offensive possessions, starting this week against the Browns and talented running back Nick Chubb.

"Obviously, playing Nick Chubb, we've got to be able to run the ball at a high level and not have our defense out there for so many reps," Connor Heyward said. "We know we can hand the ball to Najee (Harris) and Jaylen (Warren), as long as we're blocking, we'll get positive yardage."

And it will be up to little brother to make sure his big brother isn't pushing things too much in his attempt to return.

A 13-year veteran, Cam Heyward hasn't missed a game due to injury since the 2016 season. Connor Heyward was just finishing high school at that point.

"It's Year 13 for him. Injuries happen," Connor Heyward said. "I know he'll bounce back. He'll be fine. It's just a matter of time. We'll just have to manage without him. The guys on the defensive line will step up."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

The Steelers prepare for the Week 2 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

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Friday, September 15

Knowing the importance of it: While the Steelers are dealing with injuries on the defensive line with Cameron Heyward out, the Cleveland Browns have their issues as well.

Browns right tackle Jack Conklin was injured in the season opener against the Bengals and rookie Dawand Jones is set to make his first NFL start.

"Good player," said linebacker T.J. Watt, who will line up across from him.

Jones has plenty of tape to watch on Watt, but Watt doesn't have as much to watch on Jones. He played against the Bengals when Conklin was hurt, but that is the extent of tape on the fourth-round pick, as Watt doesn't revert to looking at college film because of the way playing style is adapted in the NFL.

"I don't watch much college tape," said Watt, who is just half a sack away from breaking the Steelers all-time sack record. "When those college guys get under a new coach, you see if with Broderick (Jones) here, he wasn't the same player he was in college just because there is a whole year of progression, you are getting coached by so many people throughout the combine process and once you're drafted, that coach is going to try and shape you how he wants."

The Browns come into the game with a 1-0 record having defeated the Bengals in the AFC North battle, while the Steelers are 0-1 after losing to the 49ers in the season opener.

There is an understanding of how important this game is, but when it comes to the NFL, every game is important and Watt said there isn't a heightened sense of urgency this week, just the normal.

"There is always a sense of urgency," said Watt. "It's the NFL. You only have 17 opportunities, and one opportunity is gone.

"It's a divisional game. We understand the history of this division. It's definitely an important game and it's a sense of urgency every week."

Meeting the challenge: With Cameron Heyward out this week, and expected to miss more time, one player the younger defensive linemen are looking to for leadership is defensive end Larry Ogunjobi.

Ogunjobi, who is in his seventh season, understands that, and although his leadership style might be different, he is ready for it.

"I am more of a quiet person, but I understand the situation," said Ogunjobi. "I understand even growth can happen as you are a veteran. You have to continue to take that next step in your own personal development. Being able to support the younger guys, bringing everybody together, is paramount, especially at this juncture. It's super early in the season, but I feel like this is when the rubber meets the road as far as our goals and what we are trying to accomplish."

Taking that quiet persona and changing it isn't something Ogunjobi needs to do. It's just taking the role of a leader the way he knows best that counts. 

"It's understanding there is no right time to do something. That is the approach," said Ogunjobi. "It's right in front of us. It's right in front of me. Now is the time to do it. I look forward to meeting the challenge as well."

The one thing Ogunjobi is looking for from the young players, and everyone on defense, is to play as a whole on Monday night against the Browns and not try to get away from their game.

"I think we just all have to play together," said Ogunjobi. "It's not a one-man game. Obviously Cam is a significant loss.

"Those guys are ready and able to meet the challenge. It's definitely going to be a challenge. I am excited to see them grow into this phase. It's football. Sometimes people get hurt, things happen, and your number is called sooner than you think.

"I am excited. I have nothing but faith in them. I think it's a collective effort, all 11 of us on the field working to get the job done."

Practice squad move: The Steelers signed defensive back Kalon Barnes to the practice squad.

Barnes was originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but was released on the final roster cutdown. He spent the majority of the 2022 season on the Miami Dolphins practice squad, before he was signed to the Minnesota Vikings 53-man roster in mid-December.

He played college football at Baylor University where he started 10 games his senior season, recording 23 tackles, five pass breakups, an interception, and a fumble recovery on the season. He finished his time at Baylor with three interceptions, 14 passes defensed, two and a half tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Thursday, September 14

One day at a time: Receiver Diontae Johnson said he is taking his injury one day at a time, wanting to get back to his teammates as soon as possible after suffering a hamstring injury against the San Francisco 49ers, but not sure yet when that will be.

"I am feeling good. Just a little setback," said Johnson on Thursday. "Stuff happens. It's out of my control. Just continue to try to get back to my teammates."

Johnson was asked if being place on injured reserve was an option, and he said there has been no decision on that.

"They didn't make a decision yet," said Johnson. "I am taking it one day at a time. Trying to get back healthy.

"I am taking it one day at a time. I don't know when I will be back. I'm just going with the flow."

Johnson was injured in the third quarter against the 49ers after a 26-yard reception.

"I was trying to make a play, put my foot in the ground and fell," said Johnson. "Fluke incident, it just gave out on me. I can't do nothing about that. I can just move forward and try to get back to my teammates."

Johnson is frustrated having the injury in the first game of the season but is keeping his head up.

"It (stinks). It's the first game," said Johnson. "I didn't get to do what I wanted to do out there. It's frustrating but at the same time my teammates keep me up, my little son keeps me up. I can't just be in a bad mood. That isn't going to do anything about the situation.

"I can just keep being a leader for my group, come in with positive energy and a smile on my face and keep attacking this rehab."

With Johnson out, second-year receiver Calvin Austin III is expected to see more playing time. Austin spent his rookie season on the Reserve/Injured List, playing in his first NFL game just a week ago.

Johnson and Austin have a close bond, with Austin oftentimes looking to the veteran for advice.

This time is no different.

"Just go in there and be yourself," said Johnson of his advice to Austin. "Don't try and do too much. Don't try and change your game because your role is going to be bigger this week. Just keep being yourself.

"I am always there for Calvin. He is a pro. All I can do is keep giving him love, things he can get better at. He is going to continue to get better. I am excited to see what he is going to do on Monday.

"He is smart. He knows what he is doing. He knows the playbook well. When he gets out there it's not like he hasn't seen the formation or play calls. I am pretty sure he is going to be real comfortable out there."

Familiar foe: Browns defensive end Myles Garrett is liable to lineup anywhere along the defensive line, on either edge or even in the middle as a stand-up nose tackle.

But Steelers left offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. thinks he'll see Garrett the majority of the time on Monday night, if not all night.

"I definitely think he's gonna come over there (to right defensive end), for sure," Moore maintained. "I know that guy, how he is, how he's wired.

"Especially with us going to the same college, he wants that Aggie matchup, most definitely."

Garrett was drafted first overall by the Browns out of Texas A&M in 2017.

Moore came to the Steelers from Texas A&M on the fourth round in 2021.

The Steelers are 3-1 in games Moore has played against Garrett and the Browns.

Garrett has faced the Steelers 10 times.

Cleveland has a 3-7-1 mark against the Steelers with Garrett playing.

He's registered seven sacks in those 10 games.

"Facing him now for the fifth time, I think I'm familiar with him, he's familiar with me," Moore said. "Now, I think it's more so that mental game that's going to be the biggest challenge, I feel like. It's gonna be hard fought. I think Myles is one of the best edge rushers in this league, so just giving him the respect that he's due. And then like coach (head coach Mike Tomlin) always says, just minimizing him, not adding to his resume. I think that's the biggest thing."

Tomlin didn't have to ask Moore twice when it came to giving Garrett the respect he's earned.

"It's his elite athletic ability," Moore said. "He's truly one of one. You talk about just physical specimen, the way he's built (at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds), the way he can move. You don't really find guys like that, that can do things that he does.

"He's really special in that aspect."

Moore faced Garrett for the first time on Oct. 31, 2021, Moore's seventh career NFL game.

"It made the rest of the season a heck of a lot easier, I'll say that," Moore recalled. "I didn't face anyone (the rest of that season), I felt like, even close to that caliber."

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Wednesday, September 13

Next generation up: Coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday it will take more than one player to replace defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who will miss time after suffering a groin injury against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

And to a man, everyone on the defensive line is ready to step up and do their part.

"There is more of an emphasis on the next man up and just using each other, making sure we take care of each other, push each other to have a good week," said second-year end DeMarvin Leal. "I feel like I can contribute and take that role.

"We're going to get together, talk it out and next thing you know make sure we get the job done."

Also ready to take the role is defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk, who in his third season has played in 27 games, starting five of them. 

"I think it's huge for the whole d-line, especially the young guys to be able to step up and try to fill that hole the best we can," said Loudermilk. "It's a tough one to try to fill. He is an incredible player. It's going to be on us, the guys to step up and make sure we are playing good.

"The whole d-line is going to have to step up. It's not going to be just one guy. Multiple guys will get more reps now. It's definitely on all of us now."

While Heyward's on-field contributions will be significantly missed, the intangibles he brings are also a major part of his game.

"You lose that on-the-field smart veteran," said Loudermilk. "He comes to the sideline and tells you what he sees. He is great at communicating what is going on on the field. It's not like we aren't going to have experienced vets if they see something and communicate it. We're just going to have to be able to hold it down for him."

Rookie Keeanu Benton, who was selected in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, is another young gun on the line the team will be looking to for contributions.

And he will be ready.

"It's something I have been told even before he went down. Get to know the playbook, everything I need to do so when my name is called it's not a surprise," said Benton. "It's the same message, just grow up fast.

"I always had an idea it could be something like this. Usually when you draft a d-lineman in a higher round you are going to get some playing time. I didn't know it was going to be this significant, this soon. But I am ready."

Like Tomlin said, it will take more than one, and there are plenty of young players ready for their chance.

"Next generation up," said Leal.

Sticking with the principle: For the Steelers, losing one of their top defensive players for the second year in a row is definitely a blow, but the feeling in the locker room is one of confidence that others are there to step up.

Last year the team lost linebacker T.J. Watt in the season opener.

This year it was defensive tackle Cameron Heyward who went down in Week 1, out for an unknown amount of time with a groin injury.

There will be a division of labor in replacing Heyward, something that will begin on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.

"I don't know about more guys doing more. It's just the next man up principle," said safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. "Last year we brought a few guys in to try and compensate for the loss of T.J. This year it's the same thing. We've got guys behind Cam that we are confident in, that will go out there and play ball.

"When you lose a guy like that, whether it's T.J., Cam, anybody along those lines, it's the next man up principle, but replacing guys like that is tough. They are who they are for a reason."

While he hates seeing what happened not just to his teammates, but his friends, Fitzpatrick knows injuries are part of the game and doesn't feel like the team was snake bitten to start the last two year.

"It's football. People get hurt," said Fitzpatrick. "It's a tough game. It is what it is."

The one thing Fitzpatrick said they can't do it let injuries, or the loss to the 49ers, get them down. They have an opportunity to make sure they don't on Monday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns, an AFC North matchup that always brings out the best in both teams.

"We have an opportunity to turn things around," said Fitzpatrick. "It's still early in the season. We can still accomplish everything we want to accomplish. We have to lock in, play ball and learn from last week."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 2 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

He said it: Running back Najee Harris on the mindset in the locker room as they prepare to take on the Browns.

"It's a 17-game schedule," said Harris. "The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up about a performance like that. You take what it is. Look at film, and come in and worry about the Browns."

Team effort: Cornerback Patrick Peterson may be in his first season with the Steelers, but he's been around long enough to appreciate the void left by defensive tackle Cam Heyward's departure from the lineup due to groin surgery.

"Man, it's tough when you're missing a key component in our defense like Cam Heyward," Peterson emphasized. "He means so much not only to this defense but to this team. He's the voice of this team. He's gonna be a guy that we definitely miss. I don't know how long he's out for but hopefully it's not too long.

"But as far as the secondary, we know Cam creates a push in the pocket to force the quarterback into either an ill-advised throw or not having his feet set and hopefully getting the ball into the secondary to where we can make a play on the ball. Missing Cam is gonna be huge for us but Coach (head coach Mike Tomlin) does a great job of making sure the guys behind him can do enough to pick up the slack."

Tomlin has said wide receiver Diontae Johnson is also "probably unavailable" for Monday night's game against Cleveland due to a hamstring injury. Peterson envisions wide receiver Calvin Austin III getting more of an opportunity in Johnson's absence.

"We all know Calvin has top-end speed, he can run past anybody," Peterson observed. "Now he's probably gonna be in a different role. It's gonna be kind of interesting to see how Calvin grows up this week because now he has his big boy pants on. I'm excited to see him work. He had a great spring and training camp, now it's time for him to go out there put in the work."

After battling running back Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers in the opener, the run defense will be put to the test again when running back Nick Chubb and the Browns come calling.

"Man, it's gonna be almost identical challenges," Peterson said. "It's just that we know Chubb is not a receiver-running back, he's more of a downhill-type runner. They have a ton of post-snap movement with their linemen, pulling with the guards and tackle. We have to make sure our gap integrity is on point throughout this game, because if one guy gets out of their gap Nick Chubb is going to find that open gap. If we do our job as far as being gap sound, everybody doing their job, hopefully we'll have a better outing in the running game."

-- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta

Stepping in, stepping up: With Diontae Johnson out for the near future with a hamstring injury, second-year wide receiver Calvin Austin III will play an increased role in the Steelers offense. Playing in his first career game last week against the 49ers after missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury, the former fourth-round draft pick led the Steelers with six receptions, gaining 37 yards in the 30-7 loss to San Francisco.

Austin won't be solely counted upon to replace Johnson, but he'll be a big part of the equation lining up with George Pickens and Allen Robinson.

"He's not going to be there on the field and obviously, he's one of the best route runners in the league. But he's going to be there with us every step of the way," Austin said. "On the field, it's his ability to create separation. That's something we all have to pick up and make up for. It's about us, when we get on the field, executing."

When Johnson went down early in the third quarter at the end of a 26-yard catch-and-run, the Steelers simply inserted Austin into their three-wide receiver packages as the outside receiver opposite Pickens, leaving Robinson largely in the slot.

But that was largely because the team didn't want to make massive in-game changes to their alignments. It doesn't mean that will be what they'll do moving forward for however long Johnson is sidelined.

"We didn't anticipate Tae going down, so we kind of had to adjust mid-game," Austin said. "I think throughout this week, we'll put together a game plan to make sure we're in the best spots to succeed.

Against the Browns Monday night, that could mean any of the Steelers' top three receivers could wind up in the slot when they go to those packages.

"I've gotten a lot of work at both. That's part of our offense," Austin said. "We have got a lot of interchangeable parts we've been throwing around since camp in order to be ready for moments like this. I think we'll all be able to do inside and out."

But replacing Johnson, who has 86 or more receptions in each of the past three seasons, won't be a one-man job.

Austin has been watching Johnson closely in his year with the team and learning from the veteran. Now, he'll get more of an opportunity to put that on display.

"His quickness and releases, his route nuances," Austin said of what makes Johnson special. "I've been watching him a lot throughout camp. It's just how he creates that separation. That's something to emulate."

-- Blog entry by Dale Lolley

Making moves: The Steelers signed center Ryan McCollum to the practice squad on Wednesday.

McCollum returns to the Steelers after he was waived just prior to the start of the 2023 season. McCollum also spent the 2022 season on the Steelers practice squad.

McCollum was originally claimed by the Steelers off waivers from the Detroit Lions during training camp in 2022. McCollum has spent time with the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Steelers, playing in 13 games, with one start, during his three-year career.

This isn't the only move the team has made this week.

On Tuesday the Steelers signed receiver Jacob Copeland and released defensive back Luc Barcoo and running back Greg Bell.

Copeland originally signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft. He was released by the Titans, later signing with the Minnesota Vikings during training camp. Copeland was released prior to the start of the regular season.

Copeland played at the University of Maryland in 2022 where he caught 26 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns. Prior to that he spent four seasons at the University of Florida where he had 86 receptions for 1,366 yards and nine touchdowns.

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

Monday, September 11

Staying prepared: Rookie No. 1 pick Broderick Jones got his first taste of NFL regular season play when he stepped in late in the game after Chukwuma Okorafor went down.

Dan Moore Jr. slid from his left tackle spot to Okorafor's right tackle position, and Jones went in at left tackle.

"You always have to be prepared no matter what the circumstances are," said Jones. "I just always try to put my best foot forward."

Okorafor is in the concussion protocol, so his status for Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns is something that isn't known at this point.

One thing that is known, Jones will prepare for whatever scenario he is faced with.

"You just have to take every week and prepare to the best of your ability," said Jones. "Be prepared no matter what. Anything can happen. I just always try to stick to that, be prepared no matter what."

If he is called upon, Jones could find himself going against Myles Garrett, not an easy task for anyone, especially a young player.

"I will make the best of my opportunity," said Jones. "I just have to play the best that I can for the team. At the end of the day, they are depending on me, and I am depending on them. If it comes down to it, go out there and play to the best of my ability.

"I watched a little bit of his game. I never sat down and studied him. That is something that I am looking forward to this week."

Keep on working: It wasn't a good day at the office for the Steelers offense on Sunday, putting only one touchdown on the board, that coming at the end of the first half when they were in the two-minute offense.

But nobody in the Steelers locker room is hitting the panic button as it's just one game.

"We are just going to keep working," said receiver George Pickens. "It's just one game. Just keep working."

Pickens had five receptions for 36 yards, the longest a nine-yard catch. That was due in part to the 49ers taking away the long ball throughout the game.

"They were playing Cover 3, and Cover 4 in the redzone every time," said Pickens. "We were thinking they were going to come out in Cover 4 initially in open grass, but it was Cover 3. We can't blame ourselves for that. We just have to keep on working."

It wasn't until the Steelers went into the two-minute offense that things opened up for them, going on a 12-play, 95-yard drive that took 1:25 just before the half and culminated in a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth.

The 49ers also went into their two-minute defense, giving a different look they were able to have success against.

"San Francisco was also playing two-minute defense," said Pickens. "It was different. They were playing Cover 2. They play Cover 3, Cover 4, that is their identity. It was more Cover 2 in the two-minute. It was a different look."

Tackling the issue: Linebacker Kwon Alexander had one solution for the defense in stopping the run.

And it's nothing mystical.

Tackle better.

Christian McCaffrey rushed for 152 yards on 22 carries, including a 65-yard run, on Sunday, and Alexander knows they can do much better.

"For me, when I watch film, it was tackling," said Alexander. "We need to tackle better. I know we can tackle better. We just need to get back to work. We know what we are and what we can be. We just need to get back to work.

"We have to come back and get to work, put this one behind us. Don't look backwards, look forward when we come to practice on Wednesday. Just the players we have, hold everyone accountable, just get back to work on Wednesday.

"Hit it hard and get it going."

The best way he said to improve the tackling is continued work this week, something you can do even when you aren't hitting in pads.

"Just doing stuff on the outside, after practice, working on it during practice," said Alexander. "Learning how to finish. We are going to do that.

"We just have to tackle. We have all the pieces we need. We just need to go out there and finish."

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Take a look at the best photos from the Week 1 game against the San Francisco 49ers at Acrisure Stadium