The Patriots are in the win column.
The Steelers made them earn it in Pittsburgh, but New England was able to grind it out against a solid defense for the ultimate 17-14 win and improve to 1-1 on its season.
"That was a good team win for us. We're really proud of the way the guys competed here. This is a great football city, football environment – there was a lot of energy in the stadium today and I thought our guys responded to it well," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said to open his postgame press conference after the game.
"Pittsburgh was tough like they always are. Battled back and forth with them but I thought our play there in the fourth quarter -- we came up with some big plays, two big three-and-outs stops and then held the ball for the last six minutes of the game. We were able to run it out and kneel on it, so some good football when we needed it the most. A lot of guys contributed. I could sit here and rattle 'em off but obviously offense, defense, special teams -- we had good contributions in all three areas and it's good complementary football."
Here's what else Belichick had to say after Sunday's Week 2 win:
The Patriots got the ball back with 6:33 on the clock at their own 30-yard-line for what ended up being the final possession of the game. It was a lot of time to hold off a measly three-point lead over Pittsburgh, but the offensive line held strong and New England managed a 13-play drive that gave Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson a bulk of the responsibility to run out the clock.
Belichick: It was great to be able to hang on to the ball at the end there. Our backs ran hard and our line gave him some space to run. We were able to gain control on those (four) first downs or something like that, whatever it was. But I think it was a little over six minutes when we got the ball back, so, you always wanted to end up kneeling the ball. That's the way to win so they did a great job.
New England's first touchdown of the game at the end of the first half. Mac Jones threw up a massive 44-yard throw that Nelson Agholor miraculously managed to bring down. The catch was more than contested, and made it a 10-3 score at the break. It helped set up a double-score opportunity had the Patriots not missed a field goal on the first drive of the third.
Belichick: Nelly did a great job of going up there and taking the ball. Good job by Mac for giving the receiver a chance to go get it and Nelly came down with it. It was a huge play for us. We had a chance for a swing there at the half but we weren't able to get the field goal in the third quarter but it was the right idea. We just have to do a little better of a job there finishing the drive to start the third quarter.
On Agholor's improvement over the course of the season so far:
Belichick: He's been good all year. He's been one of our most consistent players this year.
Matthew Judon was productive on defense, sacking Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky and recording four total tackles. His best play, however, came clutch in the fourth quarter when the linebacker got a jump on Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris' wheel route. In man-to-man coverage, Judon's head helped break the 3rd-and-2 pass attempt up and New England never had to give the ball back.
Belichick: Harris is one of the best backs in the league. I think he led the league last year in broken tackles. He's a tough guy to get on the ground so it was a big point of emphasis for us. I thought our defensive players, for the most part, did a good job of tackling him and wrapping him up and getting multiple players around the ball. But he's definitely a tough guy to tackle so that was a big stop for us. One of the top receivers in the game as a running back so it was a great play by Judon.
Patriots corner Jalen Mills made a great interception after one of the best defensive plays of the game. Starting at inside linebacker, Mack Wilson Sr. completely laid out for a PBU, volleying the football out of receiver Diontae Johnson's reach. The ball deflected perfectly into the hands of Mills.
Belichick: It's becoming a pretty popular play in the league. We run it so I know they've seen it in practice. Miami ran in. He's really an outstanding athlete -- I don't know how many people would have made that play but the athleticism and ability to get his hands on it and tip into Mills, that was big.
All-in-all, the win wasn't perfect, but New England will have a happy flight home after splitting their first two road games of the season.
Bill Belichick: It's just good to reinforce the things that we're doing. The way we prepared, the way we played, was good enough to come in here and win and against a good football team. They had a big win last week, coming in for their home opener. The Steelers are tough. Coach (Mike) Tomlin, this organization, consistently puts out y football teams and it's good to come in here and get a win. It's not easy so we'll take it.