Thoughts From The Pressbox

Dale Lolley with his notes, quotes and anecdotes from Heinz Field after the Steelers' 43-18 win.

Feel a little better about your Pittsburgh Steelers?

You should. There was obvious concern from the fan base and media coming off the 28-21 loss in Week 1 at New England. And for good reason. The supposed unstoppable offense struggled and the defense, well, it was largely what we thought it would be.

But against the 49ers, a team that looked pretty dominant in Week 1 against Minnesota, the offense clicked, the defense came up with some big stops and the Steelers ran away with a 43-18 win that wasn't as competitive as the final score.

The key, really, was the play of the defense. Ryan Shazier was everything the Steelers envisioned when they selected him in the first round of last year's draft.

Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt helped the defensive line dominate the line of scrimmage and both had sacks.

Bud Dupree had his second sack in as many games, putting him on pace for 16 in his rookie season. And Lawrence Timmons, after a tough game in the opener, was his usual impactful self.

In other words, the guys who were supposed to play well - the high draft picks - played up to their pedigree. Even Jarvis Jones contributed five tackles.

"We have the ability to do that," said Tuitt.

They do. But to this point, we haven't seen enough of it.

With the offense the Steelers possess, the defense doesn't need to be dominant. But it does have to make some stops and impactful plays. That certainly happened in this game.

The group isn't ready to start patting itself on the back, however.

"We’ve got a long way to improve, because we still gave up a lot of points," said Heyward. "We’ve got a lot to learn from. It’s a good start."

* Just as important as the defensive front stopping a San Francisco offense that was coming off a 230-yard rushing performance last week was the play of the secondary for much of this game.

The Steelers' defensive backs played with a presence, as well. They were physical and aggressive, from Antwon Blake and William Gay both coming up to blow up wide receiver screens for losses, to Mike Mitchell providing a physical presence in perhaps his best game as a member of the Steelers.

The secondary played with a chip on its shoulder. And it should continue to do so.

* Le'Veon Bell comes back this week and should provide a nice boost to the team. Notice I didn't say a much-needed boost.

It will be interesting to see if and how Mike Tomlin mixes DeAngelo Williams into the equation with Bell, who is arguably the best running back in the NFL.

"We were comfortable to let him be a featured guy in all circumstances this week," Tomlin said of Williams, who matched a team record with three rushing touchdowns against the 49ers. "We will see what we do next week."

* Tomlin might be comfortable with Williams, but placekicker Josh Scobee, who missed an extra point after blowing a pair of field goals last week, might be reaching the uncomfortable level.

Scobee's kickoffs have been great. Thanks in large part to him, San Francisco's average starting point Sunday was its own 18.

But he's got to be better than this. The Steelers gave up a sixth-round draft pick for him, after all.

Then again, with this offense, kicking field goals or PATs should be an afterthought.

* Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had all day to pass practically every time he dropped back. The 49ers, who had five sacks last week against the Vikings, barely breathed on Roethlisberger and weren't credited with a sack or hurry.

Roethlisberger did step out of the pocket a couple of times, but he looked like he was throwing in a 7-on-7 drill most of the day.

That should change this week when the Steelers head to St. Louis to face a tough Rams' defensive line, but Roethlisberger has to feel pretty good.

* I wasn't a fan of the drafting of Dupree in the first round this year, feeling that he was too much of a project. Two sacks in his first two games hasn't completely changed my mind on that, but it's certainly got me thinking.

* Roethlisberger threw 23 of his 32 touchdown passes at home last season and started with a bang here Sunday. That he would put up big numbers at home in this one was almost a given.

But he has to play complete games on the road for this team to be a true Super Bowl contender. He played OK last week at New England, but not well enough for the Steelers to win.

We'll see if he can change that this week.

* Punter Jordan Berry seems to save his best for when he's backed up in his own end zone. He did it in the preseason - obviously catching Tomlin's eye - and again in this game, booming a 62-yarder out of his own end zone.

Those kinds of punts are game changers.

Conversely, San Francisco traded away Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee in the off-season and went with rookie Bradley Pinion.

The San Francisco Giants would have been happy with some of the line drives Pinion hit in this game.

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