Every week, I write an opinion column on a few general game-planning tactics I like for the Buffalo Bills to use against their upcoming opponent—ones I think have a chance to be successful based on personnel usage and scheme along with the strengths and weaknesses of each team. These may take many forms, though I typically try to come up with at least one tactic on offense and one on defense.
The Bills are 9-3 and although they won’t be able to hand the Pittsburgh Steelers their first loss of the season thanks to the Washington Football Team, they do have an opportunity to maintain their hold on the AFC East division title and get a pivotal AFC win. How can they do it? I have some thoughts...
Maybe a running game
I have a general opinion with this team that I’ve shared in the past: This should be a pass-first team barring uncommon circumstances that could pop up a few times per year. The New England Patriots game featured 40 mph winds and a Patriot defense that was consistently lining up six defensive backs almost regardless of offensive personnel groupings the Bills rolled out. That’s a great example. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed inside linebacker Vince Williams on the COVD-19 reserve list on Thursday and Robert Spillane is out with a knee injury, leaving them with one true inside linebacker on their roster in Avery Williamson.
That counts as an uncommon occurrence.
The Steelers’ defense has been very good this year, but if there’s a weakness—even if temporary—you need to try it. Early runs, RPOs, and play action could be a big part of the attack if the plan includes taking advantage of the thin depth chart at inside linebacker for the Steelers.
Click click boom
Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t averaged more than six yards per attempt in a game for the last month. His average intended air yards per attempt sits at seven (eighth lowest in the NFL), but yet he throws 20+ yards down the field on 12.4 percent of his attempts, which is higher than noted anti-dinker Josh Allen. What can this tell us?
The Steelers’ offense has a lot of short passes built in that are dragging down the average, but about five times per game, they’ll take a shot. Thus far, it hasn’t been to great success (Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 77.4 on passes over 20 yards) but with weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and stellar rookie Chase Claypool against a secondary that lacks blazing speed, it needs to be accounted for. A heavy dose of single high looks rolling to Cover 2 might encourage a shot into coverage with safety help and also provide the bodies necessary to keep the short passes compressed. Encourage Ben to make seam throws into the intermediate parts of the field where the offense doesn’t shine and force him to hold the ball and bring pressure, where his passer rating drops to 71.9.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday and Friday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.