When Rex Ryan shocked the world by announcing EJ Manuel as his starting quarterback for the third preseason game, most would have written that up as the most surprising news of the week. Then the Bills played the Steelers on Saturday, and Buffalo's four quarterbacks combined for an All-Pro passing line: 30-for-33, 395 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
The player with the most impressive game was Manuel, who completed 7-of-8 passes for 170 yards and two of those touchdowns. More than holding his own was Tyrod Taylor, who completed 12-of-13 for 122 yards, and rushed for a 20-yard touchdown. Matt Cassel was enjoying the game, as well, with a very efficient 6-of-7 for 38 yards. While the stats were mostly racked up against Steelers backups, especially in the second half, passes were being placed extremely well all game long.
The offensive fireworks started early, with Fred Jackson breaking out a 41-yard run on his first carry since returning from a hamstring injury, later following that up with a touchdown dive. The Steelers, not to be outdone, piled up plenty of offense of their own, mainly thanks to the recently suspended Martavis Bryant. Bryant collected three receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown, drew two pass interference penalties for 50 yards from Ronald Darby, and frustrated Aaron Williams into an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The shorthanded secondary was victimized throughout the first half, and the Bills also surrendered some big plays in the running game, with Marcell Dareus sitting the game out.
The Bills took a 23-19 lead into the half, and Taylor (who had started the final drive of the first half) returned for another series, driving the team downfield and finishing with his aforementioned rushing touchdown. Then Ryan pulled another surprise out of his bag of tricks, bringing Manuel back out for a curtain call. Manuel responded positively with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Tobais Palmer. The defense locked down, preventing the Steelers backups from scoring any additional points, and Buffalo cruised to victory from there.
On the injury front, the Bills lost Stephon Gilmore early to a shoulder injury, from which he did not return. Marquise Goodwin suffered a rib injury, Marcus Thigpen a lower back injury, and newly acquired receiver Austin Willis took a head injury on a hard hit during a kickoff return. For those keeping score at home, that makes eight receivers who were unable to play by the end of today's game.