Plenty of football was played on Monday, but the quality wasn't exactly appealing.
The New Orleans Saints came away with a 20-17 road win against the Carolina Panthers that had a slow first three quarters before it revved up for a riveting finish. But 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young and the Panthers fell short to fall to 0-2 while Derek Carr and the Saints, albeit unconvincingly, are now 2-0.
In the later game, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned in two defensive touchdowns to top the Cleveland Browns 26-22 in a game where both Deshaun Watson and Kenny Pickett struggled to consistently move the ball.
The major concern, though, is that Browns star running back Nick Chubb is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a serious knee injury in the second quarter. Both AFC North teams are now 1-1 following the result.
Let's unpack the two games further with six winners and losers from the doubleheader:
WINNER: Alex Highsmith, OLB, Steelers
Alex Highsmith was the real difference maker for the Steelers. The 26-year-old outside linebacker started the game with a pick-six on Watson on the very first play from scrimmage. He later forced a strip sack on Watson in the fourth quarter that T.J. Watt returned to the house. It gave Pittsburgh the 26-22 lead, which it never gave away. He had seven tackles on the night (five solo), two QB hits, one sack, one interception, one tackle for loss and one pass defended. Simply stellar from the Steeler.
All four quarterbacks on display had equally rough displays.
Derek Carr's time with the Las Vegas Raiders was telling, and little has changed through two weeks in the Saints' black and gold. Carr completed 21-for-36 passes for 228 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. His 45-yard completion late to Rashid Shaheed stood out, but it was otherwise a typical showing.
Then Bryce Young had another forgettable game, which was expected in his first season for a not-so-talented Panthers team. Young completed 22-for-33 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and no picks, and he had a fumble go against him. He added a key 26-yard scramble late that gave Carolina hope, but the complete story was not a great read.
Over to Pittsburgh, Kenny Pickett completed just 15-for-30 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and one pick. The yardage inflated through George Pickens' 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It's now two rough weeks in a row for the 2022 first-rounder.
Watson, though, played worse. He completed 22-for-40 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown and one pick. He was also sacked six times and lost two fumbles. The 28-year-old struggled in Week 1 vs. Cincinnati, too. The Browns simply will need more from their $230 million quarterback because he hasn't been playing like one since last season.
WINNER: Jerome Ford, RB, Browns
Nick Chubb's injury paved the way for Jerome Ford to show what he can do. And he showed plenty of promise. The 24-year-old fifth-round pick from 2022 rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries, including a 69-yarder. He also added three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, coming up big when Cleveland needed someone to step up the most. He would've gone down the hero for the Browns had they held on for the win.
LOSER: Steelers' running game
Pickett may be struggling to find a rhythm, but it doesn't aid him either that the run game is basically a zero. Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers saw Pittsburgh muster 41 rush yards in a 30-7 loss. Najee Harris had 31 on six carries, Jaylen Warren six on three and Pickett four on one.
Fast forward a week and the rushing total increased to just 55. Harris ran for 43 yards on 10 attempts, Warren 20 on six, Calvin Austin III lost two on one and Pickett lost six on four. It's just not sustainable, and with the Raiders next on Sunday Night Football, it needs to be enhanced -- and fast.
WINNER: Taysom Hill, versatile, Saints
Hill technically is listed as a quarterback on the Saints' depth chart, but we all know from the past few seasons he's far more than that. The versatile offensive weapon yet again made an impact where it was probably least expected. With Derek Carr struggling through the air and Jamaal Williams stymied on the ground, Hill came alive with 75 rushing yards on nine carries, including gaining the first down that sealed the game. It wasn't pretty for the offense against Carolina's defense, but Hill helped make a difference.
LOSER: Panthers' receivers
Young needs all the help he can get to acclimate to NFL life faster. It doesn't help that the Panthers don't have much quality around him to improve the passing and rushing games. Adam Thielen caught seven passes for 54 yards and a touchdown to lead the team, but relying on the 33-year-old who is far from his best years just won't cut it. It may be a struggle throughout the season for Young.