Patriots vs. Steelers takeaways: Offense makes progress in 17-14 win

·6 min read

Patriots-Steelers takeaways: Signs of progress for Patricia's offense? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots didn't earn any style points, but they got what they came for Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

The Patriots edged the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 on Sunday to pick up their first win of the 2022 NFL season and rebound from their season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins.

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Wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers carried the load for New England's offense, accounting for 205 of quarterback Mac Jones' 252 passing yards. Running back Damien Harris added 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while the Patriots' defense held Mitchell Trubisky and the Steelers' offense to just 243 yards of total offense.

What did the Patriots do right in Week 2, and what do they still need to work on? Here are five instant takeaways from Sunday's victory, featuring real-time analysis from Patriots Insiders Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry.

1. Back to the basics for Patriots' offense?

While the bar is very low, the arrow appears to pointing up for Matt Patricia's group.

After mustering just seven points on 271 yards in a season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots put together more positive plays Sunday in Pittsburgh, totaling 376 yards while picking up nine first downs and scoring a pair of touchdowns.

The Patriots kept things simple with their personnel groupings, per Perry, with Jones consistently targeting Meyers and Agholor on intermediate throws early in the game.

Late in the game, New England relied on a power run attack to seal the victory, seemingly going away from the "wide zone" concepts the team had struggled with during the preseason.

The Patriots still have plenty of issues to fix on offense, and 17 points isn't going to get the job done against a more potent opponent. But they took a step in the right direction Sunday with a mostly conservative approach that led to a victory.

2. Patriots defense capitalizes on Trubisky's shortcomings

For all of the Patriots' offensive growing pains, they're still in better shape than Mitchell Trubisky and the Steelers.

Trubisky had an underwhelming day under center for Pittsburgh, completing 21 of 33 passes for 168 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. His pick was a drive-killer late in the first quarter, as he failed to see Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson, who tipped the ball into the hands of Jalen Mills for the cornerback's first interception as a Patriot.

While the Steelers converted six of their first seven third downs, they simply couldn't sustain drives against the Patriots' defense, which employed a "bend-but-don't-break" strategy against Trubisky and Co.

New England's defense now has allowed just 26 offensive points through two games.

3. Nelson Agholor makes his case as New England's deep threat

The Patriots brought in DeVante Parker to win 50-50 balls, but it was Agholor who delivered in that department Sunday.

Agholor made his best play in a Patriots uniform late in the second quarter, leaping over Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to corral a 44-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones.

Meanwhile, Jones' deep ball to Parker in the first quarter was intercepted by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, making that two straight games with an interception on a deep shot to Parker. The former Miami Dolphins wide receiver also had a miscommunication with Jones on New England's first drive.

It may take time for Parker to get acclimated in New England's offense, but in the meantime, Agholor sure looks like Jones' No. 2 target behind Jakobi Meyers.

4. Kendrick Bourne sees (slightly) more playing time

All signs pointed to Kendrick Bourne getting more run in Week 2 after he was effectively benched in Week 1. That was the case Sunday in Pittsburgh -- but Bourne wasn't exactly a staple in the offense.

The veteran wide receiver played just one snap in the first quarter and didn't catch his first pass until the 1:22 mark of the second quarter. Bourne contributed two catches for 16 yards and at least factored into the game, but he still appears to be well down the Patriots' wide receiver depth chart.

5. Gunner Olszewski gives his former team a gift

Gunner Olszewski's revenge game didn't exactly go as planned.

The Steelers return man, who spent his first three seasons with the Patriots, made a critical error in the third quarter when he muffed a punt that was recovered by New England's Brenden Schooler.

Olszewski's gaffe gave the Patriots the ball at Pittsburgh's 10-yard line after a Steelers unnecessary roughness penalty, and the Patriots cashed in three plays later with a Damien Harris touchdown plunge.

The Patriots needed all the help they could get to win this one, and Olszewski certainly obliged.

New England faces a much tougher challenge next Sunday against a motivated Baltimore Ravens team looking to bounce back after a heartbreaking loss to the Dolphins in Week 2.