A bumpy first half of football versus the Pittsburgh Steelers was rapidly put in the rearview as the Buffalo Bills pulled away after halftime. In our weekly look at playing time, some Steelers-specific scheming and injuries impacted the final numbers. Let’s get rolling and see who contributed to this massive win.
Offense (75 snaps)
The 100 percent club included Ike Boettger, Dion Dawkins, Darryl Williams, Jon Feliciano, and Josh Allen this week. An injury to Mitch Morse sent him to the sidelines for a bit. Feliciano kicked in to center and, for a brief bit, Brian Winters subbed in at guard.
Stefon Diggs continues to hover near the 100 percent club’s numbers. Gabriel Davis was once again the second-highest in wide receiver snaps with John Brown injured. Davis did fall slightly off from last week though. Cole Beasley was only behind Davis by one snap. Isaiah McKenzie’s counts aren’t shocking by any means. The group is rounded out by Jake Kumerow, who appears to have supplanted Andre Roberts in the back end battle.
Dawson Knox had the highest number of tight end snaps in what was an up and down game. The bigger news is the reemergence of Lee Smith. A healthy scratch quite a bit earlier in the year, Smith has seen a steady increase in playing time. Putting the snaps together, the Bills had two tight ends on the field 24 percent of the time, which is significantly higher than usual.
The extra blocking didn’t change the strategy as the Bills remain a pass-first team. Typically going with one running back every play, the Bills made a bit of a change this week by having a play with zero running backs. Zack Moss returned to the top of the running back heap this week in both play time and carries. This is in large part thanks to the final drive, which saw heavy doses of Moss grinding down the Steelers to close the game. That makes the 43/27 pass to run ratio even more glaring. A closer game might have been further skewed.
Defense (57 snaps)
The 100 percent club on defense consisted of Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, and Jordan Poyer. Matt Milano continues to be eased back in, splitting time mostly evenly with A.J. Klein. That was expected. The Levi Wallace and Josh Norman rotation was less expected. That one will be worth monitoring as the season continues, especially with Norman outpacing Wallace this week.
Taron Johnson, the starting corner who usually sets our floor for nickel defense, exited the game with a concussion and we’re wishing him the best. Siran Neal came in for T. Johnson and between the two it accounts for 100 percent of play time. The Norman/Wallace split did as well, meaning the Bills’ defensive back counts suggest another 100 percent nickel game. Against the faltering run game of the Steelers and their reliance on short passes, this isn’t too surprising.
The defensive ends had a typical breakdown by order. Jerry Hughes led the way followed by Mario Addison, A.J. Epenesa, and Darryl Johnson. The counts show a little fluctuation though. The pairs of Hughes/Addison and Epenesa/Johnson ordinarily are a fairly even split. Hughes outpaced Addison and Epenesa separated a little further from Johnson this week.
Ed Oliver was the featured defensive tackle with Vernon Butler in second. Quinton Jefferson, Justin Zimmer, and Harrison Phillips round out the group. The Zimmer and Phillips situation is worth watching. As Phillips becomes further and further removed from injury the performance question looms larger.
Special Teams (28 snaps)
Tyler Matakevitch maintained his top spot at 79 percent playing time but the pack was closer than normal. Reggie Gilliam landed at 75 percent, which is his highest of the year. He’s come near this amount a couple times but overall this isn’t typical. He was joined at 75 percent by Andre Smith, Tyrel Dodson, and Taiwan Jones. The unusually punt heavy game is likely the reason for the wackiness.