Agreed. But besides the metallurgy, SpaceX accepted a bunch of challenges that nobody else wanted to do, to get as far as they have so far.
Nobody else thought fuel densification was worth it. It complicates the launch window because densified fuel has to be unloaded and cooled off if you don't launch in time, and SpaceX had a few technical hiccups to resolve when they started using it. But it gives them more fuel to work with.
We've been able to land rockets on their tail manually since the terrestrial LEM simulator (which almost killed Neil Armstrongr one day) and with computers since DC-X, but SpaceX was the first to try to recover a booster that way.
And the automated barge landing is something nobody ever tried before, but saves a ton of recovery fuel.
No doubt there are a lot of other additions to the list of firsts that were required to get a SpaceX booster recovered.