The New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers faced off in their 2015 season opener at Gillette Stadium.
Read how all the action unfolded in our commentary below.
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Good evening and welcome to the live commentary of the 2015 NFL season opener between New England Patriots face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a tumultuous off-season for the Patriots they can now begin the 2015 by dropping the banner at Gillette Stadium from their triumph in Super Bowl XLIX. Bill Belichick's men won their fourth Vince Lombard trophy in 14 years in February when they defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Glendale thanks to a goalline interception from Malcolm Butler to put himself forever in Patriots' folklore.
The Patriots enjoyed their triumph while they could as they were still involved in the deflategate scandal, where claims were made that the club had intentionally deflated footballs in their AFC championship win over the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL investigated and the report into the incident via attorney Ted Wells dropped a hammer on the Super Bowl champions when the findings suggested that were guilty of the offence, leading commissioner Roger Goodell to dock the team their first-round pick in the 2016 Draft and $1m. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was suspended for four matches for being generally aware that members of the equipment staff had indulged in the process. Although, owner Robert Kraft accepted the punishment against the team Brady fought against his sanction. His appeal was initally rebuffed by Goodell, but he took the matter to court with the assistance of the NFL Players Association and just last week saw his ban vacated by US District judge Richard Berman, allowing him to feature this evening.
If the defending champions did not have enough to be dealing with they also had the normal process of an NFL off-season to endure, including free agency and the Draft. The Belichick's side lost veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to the Houston Texans, All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and fellow starting defensive backs Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington. The club selected Malcom Brown in the 2016 Draft and signed veteran cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Bradley Fletcher to bolster their secondary, while Super Bowl hero Butler has been promoted to take Revis's place on the left side of the defence.
Switching our attention to Pittsburgh now, and Mike Tomlin and his men will be looking to come back from their disappointing exit in the playoffs last season. The Steelers reached the wildcard round after winning the AFC North, but were defeated at home by their bitter rivals the Baltimore Ravens. As they usually do the Steelers restocked their roster in the Draft and resisted a splurge during free agency, adding linebacker Bud Dupree to their roster. However, it's more or less the same team as it was last year for the club, who will be hopeful that their younger players can kick on this season.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an MVP-standard year in the last campaign as he threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. The 33-year-old seems to be getting better with age and has taken fewer hits over the past few seasons, which has helped the standard of his play no end. His connection with wide receiver Antonio Brown has become one of the most formidabble in the NFL and the duo could be set for another outstanding year to return to the Pro Bowl.
Defensively the Steelers did make one change, as long-time defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau left the club and joined the Tennesseee Titans. Linebackers coach Keith Butler was promoted into the position, so it will be very interesting to watch to see if he brings a new style to the club, who are lacking on playmakers following the retirements of Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu in the off-season. Polamalu was an outstanding player in the club's secondary for a number years, and although his skills started to fade a couple of years ago, his leadership will be a major loss for the club going into the campaign. A lot rests on the shoulders of experienced players such as Cameron Heyward and Lawrence Timmons to help make the Steelers a formidabble unit once again.
The Steelers will be without All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell this evening as he serves the first of his two-match suspenion for the violating the NFL's policy on substances of abuse. The incident occurred last season with LeGarrette Blount, who left the Steelers in the middle of last season to rejoin the Patriots. Blount is also suspended tonight due to the indiscretion, while Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant also misses out due his four-game ban. On the injury front, both teams are without their starting centers as Maurkice Pouncey and Bryan Stork were both placed on IR-return by their respective teams this week, while Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell is missing with a foot injury.
The Patriots' offense should not miss a beat without LaFell, despite his impressive performance last season. Julian Edelman and All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski are ready to return to the lineup after being rested from action during pre-season. Danny Amendola is also present, while 2013 second-round Draft pick Aaron Dobson had the best game of his career against the Steelers two seasons ago. Injuries on the offensive line could prevent the running game from the Patriots this evening as Stork is missing, while Ryan Wendell has not recovered his pre-season ailment and fellow starter from last season Dan Connolly opted to retire. Rookies Tre' Jackson, David Andrews and Shaq Mason are all in line to start in the middle of the line this evening.
PATRIOTS INACTIVES: Wendell, Flowers, Cadet, Wilson, Thornton, Johnson, Coleman
STEELERS INACTIVES: Coates, Jones, Cockrell, Hubbard, James, Walton, Lyons
Three former Patriots players Ty Law, Troy Brown and Willie McGinest have emerged from the tunnel carrying the three former Vince Lombardi trophies won by the club and they are soon joined by owner Robert Kraft with the fourth.
The Super Bowl banner has dropped at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots emerged from the tunnel. We're close to the off now.
COIN TOSS! The Steelers call tails from the coin toss and it drops down on heads. The Patriots win and defer to the second half, meaning Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will take the field first.
Right! We're finally ready for the off. Here we go Stephen Gostkowski to kick!
The kick sails out of the endzone and the Steelers will start at the 20.
DeAngelo Williams carves through the left side of the line and makes 18 yards before is is brought down to the ground by Hightower. Good start by the Steelers.
Brown get the short pass from Roethlisberger and takes the ball nine yards down the sideline, while Williams chuggs through the middle for a first down at midfield.
Miller collects a short pass from Roethlisberger and he runs through the middle of the pitch before he gets brought down by Mayo.
Another gaping hole for Williams to run through and he runs right through the middle before he gets brought down by Collins. Steelers in range for a strike here.
The Steelers get a bit carried away with their success as they try a trick play as Roethlisberger fires to Brown who looks to pass, but he is sacked by Malcom Brown for an eight-yard loss. A holding call then brings back play a further 10 yards. The Steelers manage to get six yards back, but Johnson is brought down. Easley is down for the Patiots and is helped off the pitch.
Roethlisberger opts to check down to Miller froa 10-yard gain to allow a kickable field goal. Scobee to take..
FIELD GOAL NO GOOD! Scobee slices across his effort from 44 yards and the game remain scoreless. Here comes Brady and the Patriots offense.
The Patriots start with a penalty, but Brady gets back the yardage back with two strikes to Dion Lewis out wide and the back picks up 25 yards to take the home side to midfield.
SACK! Brady looks to be confused on third down and opts to run with the ball. He does not get very far as Dupree brings him down for a sack, forcing the Patriots to punt. Brown gathers the ball at the five for the visitors. Brady missed a wide-open Danny Amendola down the right side and did not seem to be too pleased with himself after that throw.
Brown comes up with a huge grab for the Steelers as he manages to pick the ball off Butler's helmet, despite the cornerback being drapped on him. A great catch from the wideout to bring up a first down for the Steelers.
SACK! Hightower comes charging through the line and decks Roethlisberger for a loss after the Steelers had a taken a penalty on first down to knock them back five yards. Roethlisberger tries to get it all back on third down and Miller makes the grab at the sticks, but McCourty hits back leaving him short of the yardage needed for a first down. The Patriots will take over at their 10 as Slater committed a penalty off the resulting punt.
Lewis gets the handoff from Brady for a combined nine yards on first and second down. Brady piles through the middle himself and gets the yard needed for the first down at the 20-yard line.
The Patriots end the quarter with a third and second at the 28-yard line as Edelman caught an eight-yard pass from Brady to bring them close, while Dobson hauled in a hitch to get yardage back from another penalty. No scores yet though.
END OF FIRST QUARTER: Pittsburgh Steelers 0-0 New England Patriots
Edelman gets the ball on the reverse and races for a first down by gaining nine yards on the ground.
Edelman gets the yardage again for the Patriots as he races across the middle of the field and beats the coverage of Blake for seven yards. Lewis had done well to get seven yards from a short pass on second after Bolden had taken a four-yard loss on first down.
Again it's Edelman and Brady for the connection for the first down with a 11-yard catch down the left side. The Patriots are rolling now.
Brady fires to Gronkowksi for the first time of the night and he gets the first down for 19 yards to take the home side into the redzone.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 0-7 New England Patriots (Brady - Gronkowski)
First score of the season and the Steelers cover themselves in glory by deciding to not cover one of the most dangerous players on the field and Brady takes full advantage by firing to Gronkowski, who charges through a tackle into the endzone. Good start for the defending champs as Gostkowski add the extra point from 33 yards.
The Steelers will start their reply on the 20 as Gostkowski nails the kickoff out of the endzone.
Roethlisberger connects with a bomb on third down as Heyward-Bey makes a huge grab over Fletcher down the right sideline to take the Steelers into Patriots territory. Huge play!
The Steeler come grinding to a halt in their charge down the field a Butler provides tight coverage on Brown down the sideline after Williams had carved out eight yards on the ground. Scobee will have a chance at 46-yard field goal to reduce the deficit.
FIELD GOAL NO GOOD! Scobee misses again from 46 yards this time and the Patriots will take over once again.
Brady connects with Edelman to get the Patriots over midfield with another grab over the middle. That's five catches for Edelman now and he goes over 50 yards for the night.
Brady is using his smaller targets to great effect as he now fires to Amendola over the left sideline, who makes a quality grab over his shoulder. The Pats are in rhythm on offense.
Brady goes short through the middle for Bolden now, who makes a man miss and gets 12 yards on the catch. The Patriots are in the redzone now.
First and goal for the Patriots as Brady takes the ball himself and gets the first down. Lewis had got eight yards on the first carry and a couple on the second.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 0-14 New England Patriots (Brady - Gronkowski)
The Patriots notch their second touchdown of the game as Brady fakes the handoff to Bolden and he loops the ball over the middle to a leaping Gronkowski for a toe-tapper at the back of the endzone.
Dri Archer takes the kickoff out of the endzone for the first time of the night and he is quickly brought down at around the 15-yard line. Big drive coming up for the Steelers, they cannot afford to fall behind further going into the half.
The Steelers respond to a penalty with a big connection over the top as Roethlisberger finally connects with Brown, who at last manages to beat the coverage of Butler, for a snag of 37 yards to take the Steelers to the half-way line at the two-minute warning.
The Steelers try to convert on third down with a looped pass to Wheaton, but the wideout cannot come up with the catch, leaving his side with a fourth and two at the New England 35-yard line. It would be a 52-yard field goal, but the Steelers are going to go for the conversion.
The Steelers do get the first down as Heyward-Bey makes the catch before he gets tackled by four Patriots players. The Steelers take a timeout to gather their thoughts.
OH BOY! The Steelers really mess up here. First Roethlisberger allows for far too much time to be taken off the clock as he time goes to 16 seconds before he releases the ball. He almost makes up for his error by connecting with Heyward-Bey in the endzone, but the receiver's foot is out of bounds. Poor play from the visitors.
The Steelers fail to threaten on third down as Roethlisberger's pass falls incomplete when looking for Heyward-Bey down the middle. That leaves Scobee with a 42-yard field goal.
FIELD GOAL GOOD! Pittsburgh Steelers 3-14 New England Patriots
Scobee can breathe a huge sigh of relief as he finally sends a field goal through the posts to get his side on the board.
HALF-TIME: Pittsburgh Steelers 3-14 New England Patriots
The Patriots hold a comfortable lead at the break as the Steelers have had no answer for the connection from Brady to Gronkowski in the endzone as the duo have connected twice to put the Pats 14-3 ahead. Brady has had no problem finding Edelman, Amendola and Lewis in the open field as he has carved apart the Steelers' defense in the opening 30 minutes of the match. At 38 years old, he shows no sign of slowing down.
The Steelers have not played badly at all in the first half on the offensive side of the ball. Roethlisberger has found a lot of success through the air to find Brown and others to put up 166 yards, while DeAngelo Williams has run for 60 yards on the ground. Their problem has been executing in the redzone where Scobee has missed two field goals and Heyward-Bey had his foot out of bounds. There are plays there to be made for the visitors, but whether they will be able to keep pace with the Patriots now that they are behind is another matter.
The Patriots will start at the 20 for the second half.
Brady fires to Edelman out wide for 11 yards as he beats a tackle and takes his man for a ride to get the first down.
Edelman again for the home side as he beats Blake on an outcut for 11 yards to bring up the first after Lewis and Bolden had ran for yards on first and second down.
Lewis charges through the line after being sprung by a block from Jackson down the left. The Patriots are moving with speed and precision.
Lewis raid through the line to gain eight yards on first down, while Brady then whips the ball to Amendola for a first down with a two-yard cut.
The Pats move to the goalline as Edelman is interfered with by Allen as he goes for the catch in the endzone.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 3-21 New England Patriots (Brady - Chandler)
The Patriots extend their lead and former Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler records his first score as a New England player as the home side cause the Steelers a nightmare with their formation on the goalline. Chandler, Hoomanwanui and Gronkowski all split out wide and then Brady picks out the open man for the score. Huge task for Roethlisberger to rally his offense now.
The Steelers will begin this drive at their 20-yard line.
Williams charges through the middle of the line and gets to the second level and more before he is brought down for a 26-yard gain.
Roethlisberger now connects with a strike downfield to Brown who takes the Steelers into the Patriots half of the field.
Williams races through the line and takes the ball to the goalline. The Steelers on the verge of a reply here.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 11-21 New England Patriots (Johnson)
The Steelers get into the endzone as full-back Will Johnson blasts his way into the endzone on the third attempt. The visitors go for two points and connect as Roethlisberger fires to Wheaton on a slant route.
So we're clear that no-one is playing defense tonight or well... Lewis takes the ball on first down over the right side of the line and shakes of two tackles for 12 yards.
SACK! Brady goes down on third down with a sack as Allen gets to him on a safety blitz, ending a promising drive from the home side. Allen punts the ball to the 27-yard line where Brown gets decked by Slater.
Williams beats the Patriots to the edge and picks up 11 yards and a first down for the visitors.
The Steelers convert on third down as Roethlisberger fires the ball to Brown to get the first down as he beats Butler and Collins on a drag route.
Pittsburgh convert a big play down the sideline as Wheaton makes the grab by touching his feet in bounds, despite the best efforts of McCourty to intercept the pass.
Miller catches the ball to bring up first down to get to the Patriots' eight-yard line.
END OF THIRD QUARTER: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-21 New England Patriots
The Steelers get a pass interference penalty on third down as Chung blocks the body of Miller in the endzone. The Steelers move to the goalline now.
The Patriots make the goalline stand, benefited by a penalty on their offensive line for a false start, as Williams is brought down by Sheard and Jones on third and six. Scobee now has a chance to bring side within a touchdown.
FIELD GOAL GOOD! Pittburgh Steelers 14-21 New England Patriots
The Patriots will begin at their 22-yard line as Williams collects the grubber kick for a short gain.
The Steelers blow a huge coverage as Gronkowski gets down the seam and runs for 52 yards all the way to the edge of the redzone. Huge play for the Patriots.
Brady finds Lewis over the middle of the field and he manages to juke a man and gets down to the goalline before he fumbles the ball. The ball is in the open field and Gronkowski manages to beat the white shirts to the ball to help his side regain possession on the goalline. Madness at Gillette Stadium.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 14-28 New England Patriots (Brady - Gronkowski)
Brady continues his fine display as he connects with Gronkowski for the third time of the game and for his fourth touchdown pass to fire the Patriots into a two-score lead. Let's see if the Patriots defense can get a stop. Someone has to eventually right?
The rarest of all things this evening a defensive stop for a three and out. Roethlisberger throws an incompletion over the middle looking for Brown, but he was well covered by Collins, while his pass to Wheaton fell incomplete. The punt from Berry is caught at the 36, but a 10-yard penalty puts them back to the 26-yard line.
Like buses the Steelers come up with a defensive stop as Brady's pass to Gronkowksi down the sideline goes out of bounds, while his pass on third down is batted down by Timmons. Allen's punt is caught by Brown at the 35-yard line.
INTERCEPTION! Roethlisberger commits the first turnover of the match as he tries to go long for Heyward-Bey, but Harmon tracks the ball well in flight and makes the snag for the interception at the six-yard line. Huge play in this match that could be fatal for the Steelers.
The Patriots get a first down as Allen is guilty of holding, handing the home side five yards for nothing. The game is slowly slipping away from the Steelers.
New England are on the move again and for the 11th time of the match Edelman makes the grab and manages to carve out 11 yards to move the chains.
Brady bleeds off the clock as much as he can before he tries to pick up the first down with a lobbed pass to Lewis, but the back cannot come up with the grab, forcing the punt from Allen. His kick goes into the endzone, but a penalty on the Patriots adds 10 yards on to the play so the visitors will begins at the 30.
The Steeler commit further poor management of the clock as Heyward-Bey goes down in a heap and cannot get the first down. The clock continues to tick down towards the two-minute warning and the Steelers can only advance to their 46-yard line before the whistle sounds.
Brown collects the ball over the middle to move the the Steelers into the Patriots half of the field.
SACK! Roethlisberger gets downed in the Patriots half of the field by Sheard as he rushes through Beachum to the quarterback. That should be that for the home side.
The Patriots just miss with a sack as Jones grabs the body of Roethlisberger, but cannot complete the play. The quarterback keeps the play alive and he throws to Murphy for 15 yards.
TOUCHDOWN! Pittsburgh Steelers 21-28 New England Patriots (Roethlisberger - Brown)
The Steelers end with a consolation score as Roethlisberger somehow picks out Brown at the back of the endzone, despite the best efforts of Butler who missed the interception.
Gronkowski collects the onside kick and the game is over!
FULL-TIME: Pittsburgh Steelers 21-28 New England Patriots
After all the off-season drama the Patriots get off to a winning start and Brady finds his rhythm from the first game with a four-touchdown performance, three of which went to Gronkowski. An excellent performance from Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski as well as Lewis on the ground. The defending champions get their season off to a solid start and now hold an important tie-breaker over their potential playoff rivals.
The Steelers will be rueing missed opportuntities in the redzone and defensive lapses, such as leaving All-Pro Gronkowski uncovered. There were some positives for the visitors as Antonio Brown found some form and made some impressive catches in tight coverage, while DeAngelo Williams also had a standout game with 127 rushing yards. Plenty to improve on, but enough to suggest that the Steelers will be a solid outfit this season.
Thanks for joining our commentary today, we'll be back with NFL coverage on Sunday. Until then, goodbye.