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Nelson Agholor hopes win over Steelers can be a ‘stepping stone’ for the Patriots

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 17-14 win over Steelers

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2022 offseason as a rumored (albeit relatively unrealistic) trade candidate, Nelson Agholor has established himself as a valuable member of the New England Patriots offense two weeks into the regular season.

Following a three-catch, 28-yard outing in the season opener in Miami, Agholor delivered a standout performance in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He caught all six of the passes quarterback Mac Jones threw his way for a team-high 110 yards as well as a touchdown.

Not only was it Agholor’s best performance since his arrival as a free agent last year, he also became the Patriots’ first 100-yard receiver since Damiere Byrd in November 2020. There is a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to the Jones-Agholor connection, but the 29-year-old himself still sees some room to grow for the entire team.

“We did well, but we have more plays to be made. There are some that if we watch we could have made, but we’re only going to get better,” Agholor said during his press conference after the Patriots’ 17-14 win in Pittsburgh. “I hope that this game is a stepping stone towards where we’re headed. I don’t want this to be, like, ‘Hey, this is our identity.’ I want it to be, ‘We see some good stuff, now let’s get better from here.’”

The high-point of Agholor’s day both figuratively and literally came in the late second quarter. With the Patriots facing a 3rd-and-3 at the Steelers 44-yard line, the wideout found himself matched up one-on-one against cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.

Streaking down the sideline, Jones put trust in his pass catcher to make a play over the defensive back. Agholor did just that, out-jumping the defender to reel in the pass and take it to the house to give his team a 10-3 lead heading into the half.

“We’ve worked on that play through the offseason, and 50-50 balls,” Jones said afterwards. “He’s one of those guys that I put in the throw-it-up-to-him category, and he’s going to have to make the play. If it’s one-on-one, I’ll give him a shot. Obviously, had time with the offensive line and I think all our receivers can do that, if they’re one-on-one, I’m going to give them a chance.”

Jones did just that on that play, and Agholor proved his QB correct.

“We talk about making big plays,” he said. “Obviously, we want to make the routine plays but anytime you get the opportunity on a 50-50 ball, we need to make those plays. It puts the energy on our side, gives us a good momentum.”

The Patriots were certainly in need of that at that point in the game. They did take a 3-0 lead but had to see the contest get tied following an interception. Just before the half, Jones and Agholor helped the unit get out of its slump for the biggest offensive play of the season so far.

New England eventually added another score in the third quarter, which was enough to come away with the victory. Agholor had as big an impact as anybody on it, ranking second on the team behind only Jakobi Meyers in targets and receptions.

In a way, it was a continuation of his performance throughout the offseason and training camp.

“He’s been good all year,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “I don’t think you want to judge guys on one play or one game. He got a lot of snaps and he’s been, really, one of our most consistent players this year.”

As such, Agholor played his way out of the trade conversation and into the top-three wide receiver spots. And with offseason acquisition DeVante Parker struggling and Kendrick Bourne playing only a limited role so far this year, the Patriots have to be quite happy about it.