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Patriots 17, Steelers 14

How it happened: Patriots survive sloppy moments to beat Steelers for first win

Nelson Agholor celebrates his second-quarter touchdown.Don Wright/Associated Press

The Patriots took a first-half lead and held on down the stretch for a 17-14 victory over the Steelers Sunday at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.

Mac Jones overcame a first-half interception and some other uneven moments to throw for 252 yards and a touchdown during the Patriots’ first win of the season. He attempted 35 passes, completing 21 of them.

Nelson Agholor (6 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD), Jakobi Meyers (9 catches for 95 yards) and Damien Harris (15 rushes, 71 yards, 1 TD) all chipped for New England.

The Patriots never trailed, taking a 10-3 halftime lead on the strength of a 28-yard field goal from Nick Folk and a 44-yard pass play from Jones to Agholor with 22 seconds left in the second quarter to make it 10-3.


Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell added his second field goal of the day midway through the third, but the Patriots stretched the lead to 17-6 after former Patriots special teamer Gunner Olszewski fumbled a punt return.

The mistake set the Patriots up with prime field position. Harris cashed in a few plays later with a two-yard plunge at the end of the quarter.

Pittsburgh drew to within three early in the fourth when quarterback Mitch Trubisky led the Steelers on their only touchdown drive of the afternoon. He found Massachusetts native and Brooks School grad Pat Freiermuth for a 6-yard TD pass.

But after a series of punts, the Patriots’ ground game took control. Behind Rhamondre Stevenson and Harris, New England was able to run an effective four-minute offense and close it out.

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Shaughnessy: OK, yes, the Patriots won. But what did we learn about Mac Jones? — 6:00 p.m.

Mac Jones is better than Mitch Trubisky.

So there’s that.

This is the NFL and a win is a win. Your quarterback can be terrible on any given Sunday, or your quarterback can manage the game well enough to beat a Tomato Can that is begging to be crushed.


But it was quite the week for New England’s second-year, post-Brady quarterback. Here’s the latest from Dan Shaughnessy.

Gunner on the punt: ‘I just dropped it.’ — 5:30 p.m.

Earlier this week, Steelers return specialist Gunner Olszewski said he wanted to “show out” while playing his former team, the Patriots.

Instead, he ended up making a pivotal mistake that swung momentum of the game in New England’s favor.

The Patriots were clinging to a 10-6 lead late in the third quarter when a punt bounced off of Olszewski’s hands, allowing Patriots special teamer Brenden Schooler to fall on it and set New England’s offense up at the 20-yard line.

“I just dropped it,” Olszewski said. “That’s on me. Game that tight, you can’t have mistakes like that.”

Read more from Khari Thompson.

What Bill Belichick had to say after the Patriots’ win — 5:15 p.m.

As a football coach, nothing makes Bill Belichick happier than being able to get contributions in all three phases. That’s what he saw Sunday in New England’s win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

While the offense was inconsistent at times in the early going, it was the defense that provided a lift. The Steelers scored just three points over the first two-plus quarters.

The offense picked up the slack, particularly with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones to Nelson Agholor, and a clock-killing fourth-quarter drive that secured the win.

And New England’s special teams also did its part, recovering a second-half fumble from former Patriots’ returner Gunner Olszewski and setting up the offense with great field position.


It all added up to a 17-14 road win against the Steelers, and the first victory of the season for New England.

“That was a good team win for us. Really proud of the way the guys competed,” Belichick said. “Good plays in all three areas of the game.

“Good football when we needed it the most. A lot of guys contributed. I could sit here and rattle them all off … (but) we got good contributions in all three areas. Good complementary football.”

Belichick singled out the work of the ground game down the stretch, as the Patriots got the ball back with more than six minutes remaining and held onto it for the rest of the game.

“Great to be able to hang on to the ball at the end. Our backs ran hard and the line gave them some space to run,” Belichick said. “They did a great job.”

Belichick also had plenty of good things to say about the 44-yard scoring strike from Jones to Agholor that allowed the Patriots to take a 10-3 lead into halftime.

“Nellie did a great job of going up there and taking the ball,” Belichick said. “Good job by Mac giving the receiver the chance to go up there and get it, and Nellie came down with it.”

Around the league: Jimmy G in for 49ers after Trey Lance gets injured — 4:54 p.m.

Ex-Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo replaced San Francisco starter Trey Lance after Lance was taken off the field on a cart Sunday after injuring his right ankle.


Josie Lepe/Associated Press

Lance went down after running the ball on the second drive of the game against the Seattle Seahawks. A cart came out on the field and Lance’s leg was put into an air cast before he was taken off. The 49ers announced he would not return.

Lance’s teammates and several Seahawks players paid him respect before he left the field.

Lance had taken over the starting job this season from Garoppolo after being drafted third overall in 2021.

Garoppolo didn’t practice with the team during training camp, throwing on his own on a side field, before agreeing to return as a backup on a reduced contract this season.

Now he could have a chance at a more substantial role depending on how long Lance is injured. — Associated Press

Nelson Agholor takes us inside his big-time touchdown — 4:45 p.m.

Jump balls are nothing new for Nelson Agholor.

The receiver, in his second season with the Patriots, had the finest game of his career with New England Sunday, finishing with six catches on six targets for a team-high 110 yards and a score.

His biggest moment was a 44-yard touchdown catch down the sideline, a play where he went up and took the ball away from the defender.

Agholor has won and lost his share of those 50-50 balls.

“I’ve been on both sides of those,” Agholor said. “It’s about focus and just being present in the moment when the ball is in the air.”


Agholor and Jakobi Meyers provided the bulk of the yardage in the passing game. (Meyers ended up with nine catches for 95 yards.) The work of that duo helped open up the Pittsburgh pass defense.

“We talk about that … making big plays,” Agholor said. “It allows us to run the ball well when we beat man to man, because that’s a defensive counter.

“Beating man to man complements what we do as a running team.”

In the end, Agholor said Sunday’s win is simply part of the process, a part of the journey toward where they want to be.

“I hope this game is a stepping stone toward where we are headed,” he said. “I want us to take this and build off of it.”

Scores from around the league — 4:38 p.m.

▪ Old friend Tom Brady and the Buccaneers rallied from a rough start (it was 3-0 Saints at halftime) to win, 20-10, in New Orleans. TB receiver Mike Evans and Saints Marshon Lattimore were both ejected.

The Dolphins scored 28 fourth-quarter points to beat Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Miami moves to 2-0.

▪ The Jets scored a touchdown with under a minute to play to beat the Browns, 31-30.

▪ The Giants are 2-0 after beating the Panthers, 19-16, at home.

▪ A rough start for the Matt Ryan era: The Colts were shut out, 24-0, by the Jaguars.

Damien Harris’s simple philosophy — 4:30 p.m.

Damien Harris had a simple philosophy when the Patriots put the ball in the hands of the ground game like they did Sunday against the Steelers.

“End the game,” he said after Sunday’s 20-17 win over Pittsburgh. “That’s it. Just end the game.”

Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson delivered the hammer in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Steelers, as New England ran six straight running plays (not including kneel downs) to close things out in the narrow victory against Pittsburgh.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Obviously, we’re still not where we want to be,” Harris said of the last sequence. “Being able to end the game with the ball in our hands as an offense, that’s a huge confidence booster.

“You can’t ask for a better win than that.”

Harris, who had 71 rushing yards on 15 carries, had New England’s lone rushing touchdown, a two-yard plunge late in the third quarter that made the game 17-6. He gave credit to quarterback Mac Jones and the offensive line for executing with the game on the line.

“Those guys, they work their butt off every single day up front,” Harris said of the offensive line. “As they go, the rest of our offense goes. A huge shout out to those guys today.

“Mac’s our leader. He’s a great leader, he’s a great teammate. He’s an even better friend,” Harris added of Jones, who ended up 21-for-35 for 252 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “We’re very fortunate to have him under center.”

Instant Analysis: Hey, at least the defense can still win a game — 4:25 p.m.

At least the Patriots still have a solid defense that can steal a win.

The offense is a mess and has many issues to resolve. But the defense, which entered this season with many questions after getting shredded by the Bills in the playoffs, definitely has enough talent to stifle bad offenses like the one they faced Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The game plan seemed simple enough — sit back and wait for Mitchell Trubisky to make mistakes. And that’s pretty much what he did, with Trubisky throwing for just 168 yards, including a bad interception and several throws that had little chance of success.

But the Patriots’ defense deserves a lot of credit, too. Read the rest of Ben Volin’s analysis.

What the Steelers are saying — 4:15 p.m.

Patriots win — 4:02 p.m.

The Patriots will return to New England for next Sunday’s home opener against the Ravens.

On the last sequence — 3:59 p.m.

Few quick notes on this sequence for New England:

• On a run for Rhamondre Stevenson (that was eventually called back on a holding call on Jakobi Meyers), the RB gets a thumbs-up because he managed to stay in bounds to try and kill some more clock. Harris did the same later in the drive. Smart, smart, smart.

• If they get a chance and they find themselves in a good situation, the Patriots’ four-minute offense can be pretty good.

• Seven penalties for New England this afternoon. Ugh.

• The way Mac Jones has scrambled today — he has 15 rushing yards ... I don’t think his back is an issue.

•Two games in, and Meyers (9 catches, 13 targets, 95 yards today) has my vote as a Pro Bowler.

Harris banged up with 1:40 to play — 3:57 p.m.

Harris limped off the field after a 5-yard run to help the Patriots grab the first down that may seal this one.

A big run for Damien Harris at the two-minute warning — 3:51 p.m.

Damien Harris found a hole and broke away for 16 yards and a first down.

With 2:23 to play, the Patriots have a fresh set of downs at the Steelers’ 27-yard line.

Can they sneak one more score before end of game?

Jones grabs his own first down — 3:49 p.m.

The Patriots move the chains with a Mac Jones 5-yard run for a first down. It’s 17-14 Patriots at their own 43-yard line with 4:02 to play in the fourth quarter.

Another drive, another punt — 3:40 p.m.

Punt ... punt ... punt.

The Patriots began the fourth quarter with a drive that ended in a punt. The Steelers responded with the same.

Jake Bailey just punted for the fourth time, this one landing in the end zone. The Steelers will take over the ball at their own 20. 8:03 to go.

Patriots punt it away after frustrating fourth-quarter drive — 3:31 p.m.

The drive: 7 plays, 32 yards, 4:09.

New England couldn’t muster much in the way of offense in response to Pat Freiermuth’s TD catch.

Kendrick Bourne did make a 10-yard catch, but it was negated by a David Andrews offensive holding play.

The Steelers take over at their own 11 with 10:49 to go.

The analysis:

Good start, but the Patriots were unable to finish that drive.

• Jakobi Meyers is so dependable. (Where have we heard that before?) The youngster had an excellent 15-yard catch on third-and-long on that drive to get the Patriots into Pittsburgh territory.

• File this one under stats always need context: Bailey delivered a great punt, pinning the Steelers at their own 11. But it’ll go down as a 29-yard boot. Numbers sometimes lie.

Mass. native Pat Freiermuth makes it into the end zone — 3:20 p.m.

Patriots 17, Steelers 14 | 14:58, fourth quarter

The play: Mitch Trubisky fired a 8-yard pass to Newburyport native Pat Freiermuth for a TD. The Steelers opted for the two-point attempt, and Diontae Johnson just barely stayed in-bounds to make the catch.

The drive: 9 plays, 75 yards, 2:49.

The analysis: And suddenly, it’s a 17-14 game with 14:58 left in regulation after the Steelers put their first touchdown drive of the afternoon together, one that was capped with an 8-yard scoring play from Trubisky to Freiermuth. New England needs to answer here.


End of third quarter: Patriots 17, Steelers 6 — 3:17 p.m.

Three quarter are done. Patriots lead, 17-6, but the Steelers are on the New England eight-yard line.

Injury update: Ja’Whaun Bentley — 3:11 p.m.

Patriots take advantage, and Damien Harris scores — 3:08 p.m.

Patriots 17, Steelers 6 | 2:47, third quarter

The play: Damien Harris snuck through the Patriots’ offensive line for a two-yard touchdown run to put New England up.

The analysis: The Patriots took advantage of the Olszewski fumble on the punt return to punch it in for the score. Not sure you could have scripted things any better there for the Patriots. Looking forward, you score 17 points on the road, with the way this defense is playing, it should be more than enough for a win. We’ll see how it all shakes out the rest of the way.

Jones: 16 for 27, 204 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Harris: 10 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD

Agholor: 5 catches, 105 yards, 1 TD

Mac Jones almost throws it away, but Pats take advantage of Olszewski’s mistake — 3:04 p.m.

Cam Sutton almost scooped up an easy Mac Jones INT, but couldn’t hold onto the ball. Jake Bailey came out to punt, and ex-Patriot Gunner Olszewski muffed it. Pats special teamer Brenden Schooler made a heads-up play to jump on the ball.

The analysis: We talked about special teams magic when we broke down the Official P{rice Prediction, and we just saw it right there, with the Olszewski fumble on the punt. New England will get the ball at the Pittsburgh 10 with a great opportunity to really take command.

Steelers cut into the Patriots’ lead — 3:00 p.m.

Patriots 10, Steelers 6 | 5:44, third quarter

The play: Steelers K Chris Boswell nailed a 52-yard field goal.

The drive lasted 7 plays and went only 25 yards.

The analysis: After the miss from Folk, the Steelers started with their best opening field position of the afternoon — their own 42. New England held, but Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell connected on a 52-yard field goal.

• We can discuss the issues that the offense has had over the first six quarters or so to start the season, but the defense has played well. I realize the Dolphins and Steelers won’t be confused with the 1998 Vikings, but their work needs to be acknowledged.

• Jabrill Peppers had a really impressive pair of open-field tackles on those last two Pittsburgh plays.

Let’s check in on Tom Brady ... — 2:58 p.m.

Tom Brady is not happy with the Buccaneers, who were down 3-0 to the Saints before a field goal in the third quarter.

And he’s showing it ...

Injury update: Kyle Dugger — 2:55 p.m.

Nick Folk misses 52-yarder — 2:50 p.m.

Patriots 10, Steelers 3 | 9:17, third quarter

New England’s drive stalled after 11 plays and 41 yards.

The play: Nick Folk missed a 52-yard field goal.

The analysis:

• Second false start of the year and second penalty of the game on Isaiah Wynn. That sort of stuff will drive Bill Belichick nuts.

• Jones overthrew Bourne on that second-and-7 play, but was bailed out on a well-executed 7-yard run from Stevenson that allowed the Patriots to keep the chains moving. He also overthrew Meyers on that last third down.

• Bottom line? A good start, and the Patriots had a chance to really put their stamp on this one. But that drive will go down as a missed opportunity. It’s still 10-3 with 9:17 left in the third quarter. Pittsburgh will take over at its own 42-yard line.

Patriots driving to begin second half — 2:44 p.m.

Kendrick Bourne made an appearance on the Patriots’ first drive, but Mac Jones couldn’t convert on second and 7. Jones turned to Rhamondre Stevenson twice to get the third first down of the drive.

Isaiah Wynn jumped at the line, and the Patriots called a timeout as the play clock ticked down. They’re at second and 12 on the Steelers’ 38. Game clock at 10:04.

Eight thoughts at the half — 2:30 p.m.

• It feels like this game is playing out as anticipated, a contest dominated by the defense, with a pair of offenses still looking to fit their footing. A delay of game penalty on each offense should tell you something about where both these teams are at this stage of their offensive development.

• Mac Jones took an intentional grounding penalty, a delay of game, and was likely the one at fault on the ball for DeVante Parker that was picked off in the early going.

There were some high points, including a 24-yard pass play down field to Jakobi Meyers and the 44-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor (although that was more about the work of the receiver to win the possession battle). But all in all, a mixed bag for the quarterback.

• The best thing about the New England offense? Probably Meyers, who caught the first four passes in his direction, which included some difficult balls over the middle. Not saying anything wildly revelatory here, but he’s easily Mac’s favorite target.

• Unofficial snap tracker: Kendrick Bourne was on the field for one snap in the first quarter. He popped up late in the second quarter with a six-yard catch.

• As we saw in the opener against the Dolphins (other than the one ugly breakdown cost them a late first-half touchdown), the New England defense has easily been the more dominant of the two units.

The Patriots faced Trubisky in 2018 when he was a youngster with the Bears, and they were able to bait him into a few bad throws. We saw that again in the first half with the Jalen Mills pick on the ball tipped by Mack Wilson. New England also sacked Trubisky three times. The one thing the Patriots defense needs to focus on in the second half? The Steelers are 7 for 11 on third down.

• The Steelers had one scoring drive, which ended in a 36-yard field goal from Chris Boswell. For those keeping track, the New England defense has yielded one touchdown through the first six quarters of the season.

• Myles Bryant nearly fumbled away the first punt of the afternoon from the Steelers, while Nick Folk connected on a 28-yard field goal attempt. It tied the NFL record for consecutive field goals from less than 50 yards with 56. (Ryan Succop also had 56 with the Titans from 2014-17). Folk also made his only PAT attempt of the first two quarters.

• The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half.

Halftime stats — 2:26 p.m.

Two quarters are in the books in Pittsburgh, and the Patriots are up 10-3. The halftime stats:

Mac Jones: 10 for 17, 143 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Damien Harris: 5 carries, 25 yards

Nelson Agholor: 4 catches, 4 targets, 80 yards, 1 TD

Jakobi Meyers: 5 catches, 6 targets, 57 yards

Kendrick Bourne: 1 catch, 1 target, 6 yards

Mitch Trubisky: 11 for 19, 96 yards, 1 INT

Najee Harris: 10 carries, 30 yards

Diontae Johnson: 3 catches, 6 targets, 33 yards

At the half: Patriots 10, Steelers 3 — 2:23 p.m.

Matt Judon sacks Mitch Trubisky on second down at the Steelers’ own 44-yard line, and a heave with :03 left goes nowhere.

Nelson Agholor makes spectacular catch to put Patriots up — 2:16 p.m.

Patriots 10, Steelers 3 | :22, second quarter

The play: Third down, Patriots at the Steelers’ 44-yard line. Jones throws a deep pass to Nelson Agholor, who leaps over the defender to make the grab and heads to the end zone with a flourish.

The drive: 8 plays, 74 yards, 2:46.

The analysis: That’s the sort of thing that can jump start an offense. Agholor won the battle on the 50-50 ball for the touchdown. Great play by the receiver, who took it away from the defensive back. The Patriots are up, 10-3, with 22 seconds left in the first half. If they can hold on over these last few seconds, they’ll head into the half on a positive note.


Two-minute warning — 2:10 p.m.

With 2:16 to play in the half, the Patriots are on their own 39-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Mac Jones ran it up the middle for four yards to convert.

Injury update: Godchaux questionable to return — 2:00 p.m.

Patriots punt it away after nearly getting long first down — 1:58 p.m.

Mac Jones, at third and 26, heaved a 24-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers to nearly get the first down with 6:32 to play in the first half.

The Patriots opted to turn to punter Jake Bailey instead of going for it.

Mac has taken an intentional grounding call (on their most recent possession) and a delay of game. He’s 6 for 11 for 77 yards and an interception.

The Steelers will take possession at their own 20-yard line with 6:25 remaining in the first half.

Patriots sack Trubisky, Steelers settle for field goal — 1:48 p.m.

Patriots 3, Steelers 3 | 8:35, second quarter

The play: On third down, Tavai took down Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky at the New England 18.

The Steelers settled for a 36-yard field goal.

The analysis: It feels like the New England defense is playing relatively well — the Patriots have a turnover, they’ve sacked Trubisky twice, and the Steelers haven’t cracked the end zone — but the Steelers are 6 for 8 on third down.

The drive: 16 plays, 48 yards.

End of first quarter: Patriots 3, Steelers 0 — 1:40 p.m.

First quarter is done. Patriots lead, 3-0.

Mac Jones: 5-9, 53 yards, 1 INT

Nelson Agholor: 2 catches, 2 targets, 27 yards

Damien Harris: 4 carries, 21 yards

Mitch Trubisky: 4-6, 18 yards, 1 INT

Minkah Fitzpatrick picks off Mac Jones — 1:36 p.m.

Mac Jones tried to air it out to DeVante Parker, but Minkah Fitzpatrick was all over it.

The play: An interception by Fitzpatrick at the Steelers’ 22-yard line. Fitzpatrick ran it back to the Steelers’ 34.

The analysis: THAT was on Mac Jones, throwing into two-deep coverage against a pair of safeties. Not a great idea, even when you are tossing it in the direction of someone like Parker.

Jalen Mills intercepts Mitch Trubisky — 1:31 p.m.

Jalen Mills intercepted a deep Mitch Trubisky pass to Diontae Johnson at the Patriots’ 26. He returned it 13 yards, and the Patriots offense has the ball at their own 39. Big turnover there.

The first time Trubisky faced the Patriots as a member of the 2018 Chicago Bears, he tossed a pair of picks and was a little wild. It’s been a couple of years since then, but given Belichick’s ability to scheme against younger quarterbacks not named Tua, it’s something to look for again today.

1:38 to go in the first quarter.


The Patriots thought it was a fumble, but officials review the TD call — 1:24 p.m.

What just happened: Jalen Mills tackled Diontae Johnson, and it looked like he was down.

Josh Uche scooped up the ball, which came loose, and ran it 37 yards into the end zone. Officials called a touchdown on the field — it would have been a savvy move by the Patriots defense, to not give up on the play without hearing a whistle.

After review, Johnson was ruled down on contact. It’s a first down for the Steelers.

What to make of the Patriots’ first drive — 1:20 p.m.

Good first drive for the Patriots, who shook off poor field position for the first score of the game, a 28-yard field goal from Nick Folk. No negative plays, one penalty. It went 13 plays and 71 yards, and took 6:45. It’s 3-0 with 6:42 left in the first quarter.

• Jakobi Meyers is just so reliable. Excellent work moving the chains on that initial third-down opportunity, but there were also a few other receptions on that series (including the 16-yard pickup) worth noting.

• Nelson Agholor also gets kudos for his 16-yard catch over the middle. Both he and Meyers going over the middle and making those tough catches early against the Pittsburgh defense.

• Jones’s incomplete pass for Henry in the red zone was a little dangerous. Not sure who was at fault there, but it could have been a turnover.

• Kendrick Bourne was in for one of the Patriots’ 13 plays on that drive.

Patriots’ drive sputters, but Folk sinks a field goal — 1:16 p.m.

Patriots 3, Steelers 0 | 6:42, first quarter

The play: Mac Jones missed Hunter Henry on second-and-8, and the Patriots got called for a delay of game on the next down. Nelson Agholor picked up 11 yards to move to the Steelers’ 9-yard line.

Nick Folk kicked a 28-yard field goal to put the Patriots on the board. He’s now tied with Ryan Succop (2014-17) for the longest streak in NFL history of successful field goals under 50 yards with 56.

Steelers first drive ends with a Patriots special teams mess — 1:06 p.m.

Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers went 3-and-out, but on the 69-yard punt, Myles Bryant misplayed the ball.

After fumbling around with the football, Bryant dodged a bullet — the officials ruled he never possessed the ball, and it’s a touchback. The Patriots have the ball.

A few early thoughts:

• I’d be surprised if we saw Myles Bryant back there as punt returner the rest of the day.

• All right, I’ll say it: it’s strange seeing a day game between the Patriots and Steelers this early in the season. Really strange.

• Great start for the New England defense. Pats’ dodged a bullet with the pass that was off the mark for TE Pat Freiermuth, a Massachusetts native.

Mac Jones takes the field to boos — 12:59 p.m.

Official Price prediction — 12:45 p.m.

This sets up as a great bounce back opportunity for the Patriots. You aren’t necessarily going to find a long-term cure all this week against the Steelers, but the matchups suggest that New England has the capability to get to 1-1. If you are the Patriots, you absolutely need to get a standout performance from your defense, and some special teams magic (a return, blocked punt, etc.) certainly wouldn’t hurt either. In the end, this feels like a game dominated by defense, one where New England will have just a little bit more in the tank. I’ll say Patriots 16, Steelers 10.

See how our staff picked this game here.

Belichick’s pregame Q&A — 12:40 p.m.

Some of the takeaways from Bill Belichick’s Q&A with Scott Zolak on 98.5 The Sports Hub:

On preparing for a different Steelers team: “That was a big win they had last week in Cincinnati,” Belichick said of 1-0 Pittsburgh.”They’re tough, and they play hard, as always.”

On the Week 1 loss and the work since then: “We definitely need to improve on some things, and we spent the week on that,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll see some better results today.”

Belichick was asked about some of the players who were banged up in Week 1, including Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips: “They should be good to go today.”

When it comes to the Steelers offense, Belichick had plenty of good things to say about quarterback Mitch Trubisky (“He’s a big strong kid … hard to tackle in the pocket”) and the wide receivers, including youngster George Pickens. “They’ve raved about him through training camp and the preseason,” Belichick said, who said he was “one of the best receivers in college football” last year. “We have to be careful there — he’s a good player.”

Belichick also had lots of good stuff to say about the Steelers defense, a group that plays “a lot of zone.” Belichick singled out defensive lineman Cam Heyward, calling him “one of the best” the Patriots will see all year.

The most important person in the building today? Brian Flores. — 12:30 p.m.

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Steelers linebacker Myles Jack was a starter for six years in Jacksonville and helped lead the Jaguars to an AFC Championship game.

But he has never understood the game like he has this year playing for assistant coach Brian Flores.

“It’s probably the most clarity I’ve had in my career,” said Jack, whose Steelers host the Patriots on Sunday. “[Flores] just connects the dots on basically how the offense is attacking us and how we can protect ourselves and what they’re thinking on the other side. It’s just a really cool 360 view that he brings the picture together. When he speaks, I try to write down just about everything he says.”

Flores won’t play a snap Sunday, but he will be the most fascinating, and arguably the most important, person in the building. Read Ben Volin’s dive into the former Patriots assistant.

For years, we could count on the Patriots bouncing back after a loss. What about now? — 12:20 p.m.

In their dynasty decades, Patriots fans could count on Bill Belichick, his coaching staff, and a certain quarterback to make instant repairs after the occasional troubling or unexpected loss.

Get pummeled by the Chiefs in 2014? We’re on to Cincinnati. Inevitably, the Patriots’ next opponent after a loss felt the wrath of their frustrations. It was one of the greatest of their many extraordinary attributes while winning six Super Bowls in 18 seasons.

Things are different now, and we’re still sorting out just how much.

Read the rest of Chad Finn’s preview and see his players to watch and prediction.

Around the league: Schedule and notable inactives — 12:10 p.m.

Here’s today’s schedule.

Tom Brady will be without a few weapons when the Buccaneers take on the Saints in New Orleans. Here’s a rundown of notable inactives:

Tampa Bay WR Julio Jones

Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin

Baltimore RB JK Dobbins

Indianapolis WR Michael Pittman

New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara

Miami RB Myles Gaskin

Cleveland d RB D’Ernest Johnson

New York Jets TE C.J. Uzomah

Our big question today: What about Kendrick Bourne? — 12:00 p.m.

Most intriguing player to watch this afternoon? Kendrick Bourne.

The wide receiver was only in on two plays last week against the Dolphins, and has been a forgotten man ever since he had a bad week against the Panthers in the preseason. (He was reportedly late for a meeting and was part of a dustup in the joint practices.)

It was clear the Patriots could have used more of him in the loss to Miami; he’s done plenty to win Mac’s trust, and his speed brings a different dynamic to the New England passing game. Most of you guys believe he’s going to be in on anywhere between 11 and 19 snaps today against the Steelers. We shall see.

What history tells us about an 0-2 start — 11:50 a.m.

My philosophy when it comes to assessing teams at this time of year? It’s never as good as you think it is, and never as bad as you think it is. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.

However, history tells us that teams that start 0-2 have a massive uphill climb when it comes to the postseason.

Consider these totals from Stathead:

• Since the 1970 merger, 400 teams have started 0-2. Thirty-eight of those teams have made the playoffs.

• The last teams to do it were the 2018 Texans (who finished 11-5) and Seahawks (10-6).

• Of those teams that start with an 0-2 record, only 56 teams finished with a winning record (14 percent).

• The best record of any team to start the season 0-2 was the 2013 Panthers, who finished 12-4.

• Let’s end this on a positive note: of the four teams who started 0-2 and reached the Super Bowl, two of them were from New England: the 2001 and 1996 teams lost their first two, and ended up making it all the way to the big game.

What to make of the Patriots’ inactives — 11:37 a.m.

The Patriots have just announced their inactives for today’s game. Here’s the list:

Safety Joshuah Bledsoe: The youngster was on the injury report this week, limited with a groin injury, and was downgraded to out on Friday. But, given New England’s depth at safety, Bledsoe is likely one of those players who is active only on a semi-regular basis over the course of the season. His absence shouldn’t have a sizable impact on the Patriots’ game plan this afternoon.

Guard Chasen Hines: A healthy scratch, his second straight to open the season. Hines’s primary spot is likely left guard, which means he’s behind first-round pick Cole Strange.

Defensive tackle Sam Roberts: Another healthy scratch. Roberts, a rookie out of Northwest Missouri State, is behind some established veterans along the interior.

Quarterback Bailey Zappe: The third quarterback is the odd man out again this afternoon.

Defensive back Marcus Jones: A bit of a head-scratcher, as the rookie wasn’t on the injury report all week. It’s reasonable to consider whether his absence is related to the apparent good health of older, more established players ahead of him on the depth chart, a group that includes (but is not limited to) the likes of Shaun Wade.

What to know about the notables who are good to go: safety Adrian Phillips, who sustained a rib injury in the opener against the Dolphins, is among the actives, as is tackle Trent Brown, who was limited with an ankle issue over the course of the week.

Quarterback Mac Jones (back/illness) and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (toe), both of whom were on the injury report at various points this week, are listed as active.

Patriots and Steelers inactives are out — 11:35 a.m.

Patriots: DB Joshuah Bledsoe, G Chasen Hines, DT Sam Roberts, QB Bailey Zappe, DB Marcus Jones

Steelers: QB Mason Rudolph, C Kendrick Green, WR Steven Sims, DE Isaiahh Loudermilk, LB Mark Robinson, OLB David Anenih

A few pregame betting notes — 11:30 a.m.

Some pregame notes — gambling and otherwise — worth passing along:

▪ Today’s game is the first 1 p.m. kickoff between these two teams since 1998. It breaks a streak of 16 Pats-Steelers contests starting at 4:25 or later.

▪ It’s the first Pittsburgh-New England game since December 6, 1998, that does not feature either Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. That game was Drew Bledsoe against Kordell Stewart; the Patriots won, 23-9, and Bledsoe threw for 327 yards in the victory. (Patriots starter Mac Jones was three months old when that game happened.)

▪ According toBet Online, the Steelers are among the three most-wagered underdogs this week. As of Friday, the line was New England -2.5, but 66 percent of bets were on Pittsburgh. In addition, the game is the most-wagered under. The initial number was set at 40.5, and 81 percent of the wagers are on the under. (We’ll have a few more betting notes shortly.)

Give us your predictions — 11:22 a.m.

How many snaps will Kendrick Bourne get? — 11:20 a.m.

Bourne notably played just two snaps in the Patriots’ loss last week.

The Twitterati thinks he’ll end up with at least 11. What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

Five numbers to watch — 11:15 a.m.

Five numbers to look out for this week:

• Patriots coach Bill Belichick enters Sunday’s game with 321 career wins — 290 in the regular season and 31 in the postseason. He’s third on the all-time list for regular-season wins, behind Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318). If you including playoff victories in the all-time, a victory today against the Steelers would put him two behind Halas (318 regular-season wins and six playoff wins), 324 to 322.

• Mac Jones needs 263 passing yards to move past Hugh Millen (4,276) into seventh place in franchise history.

• Damien Harris needs three rushing touchdowns to become the 14th Patriots player to reach 20 career rushing touchdowns.

• Today marks Devin McCourty’s 190th regular season game--he’ll move past Tedy Bruschi for sole possession of ninth place on the franchise all-time list of games played.

• Nick Folk has made 55 straight field goals under 50 yards, the second-longest streak in history behind the 56 straight from Ryan Succop (2014-17).

Pregame reading list — 11:10 a.m.

Best way to get ready for the game? Read up:

Welcome back to football! — 11:05 a.m.

Welcome back to football!

It’s Week 2, and Patriots-Steelers, live from Acrisure Stadium. (I know … that sounds weird.)

New England is looking to bounce back from a loss in the opener to Miami, while Pittsburgh is looking to improve to 2-0 after the Steelers upended the defending AFC champions from Cincinnati last week. (Something to keep in mind, Patriots fans: no team that started 0-2 last season made the playoffs.)

Keep it here all afternoon long, as we’ll have all your updates: pregame news and notes, in-game updates and analysis, and plenty of postgame action. CUE THE BAND.

Christopher Price can be reached at Follow him @cpriceglobe.