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Revisiting five Pittsburgh Steelers to watch against the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo had a plan and executed it to stop Pittsburgh’s top players

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Sunday’s game with the Buffalo Bills as the top seed in the AFC. They left Orchard Park with a two-game losing streak after dropping a Sunday Night Football affair, 26-15. While the Steelers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first half, Buffalo clamped down on defense and started rolling on offense, eventually building a 23-7 lead that was far too much for the Steelers to overcome.

Buffalo was able to pull out the huge conference win by shutting down Pittsburgh’s top threats. Here’s how our five Steelers to watch performed Sunday night.

QB Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben looked a little old Sunday night, as he just couldn’t maintain any sort of rhythm against a stout Bills defense. Roethlisberger completed just 57 percent of his passes, managing only 187 yards on 37 attempts. He managed two touchdown passes—one to James Washington in the first half, and another to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second half, but he also threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 51 yards for a touchdown by Taron Johnson with under two minutes left in the first half. Roethlisberger was late on the release and he misplaced the ball, throwing it inside on an out-breaking route. Johnson jumped the softly thrown ball and was off to the house. Roethlisberger’s quick-strike style didn’t benefit him on Sunday, as the Bills used their closing speed on defense to swarm Pittsburgh’s receivers quickly after the catch. This was the first time in his career that Roethlisberger played the Bills when Buffalo had a winning record, and it’s the first time he’s lost to Buffalo, as well.

RB James Conner

Buffalo completely iced Pittsburgh’s running game, holding the Steelers to 47 yards on 17 rushing attempts. Conner, in his first game back after being placed on the COVID-19 list, carried ten times for just 18 yards. He wasn’t even targeted in the passing game, which is odd given how talented a receiver he is out of the backfield. Conner was a total non-factor in the game on Sunday.

WR Chase Claypool

The big wideout from Notre Dame had a quiet evening, catching only three of his six targets for a total of 15 yards. His biggest gain was a six-yard catch-and-run à la the Isaiah McKenzie jet sweep-underhand toss play that Josh Allen so effectively runs. Whether Claypool was covered by Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, or Josh Norman, the Bills were able to shut the big-play threat down all night.

LB T.J. Watt

Speaking of shutting down big-play threats, Buffalo was able to neutralize the best pass rusher in the game mostly by leaving their right tackle alone to shut him down. Daryl Williams owned Watt on Sunday, as the league’s leader entering play in sacks (12) and quarterback hits (37) was held to just two tackles, two quarterback hits, and one pass breakup on the evening. It was Cameron Heyward who gave the Bills problems, not Watt.

S Terrell Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds’s brother had eight tackles on the night, five of the assisted variety, but otherwise made no impact plays. The Bills were able to find holes in Pittsburgh’s zone defense all evening, especially in the second half, so it isn’t as if Edmunds was the only secondary player who struggled for the Steelers. Edmunds was on the field for every defensive snap, joining fellow safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as the only two Pittsburgh players to take all 75 defensive snaps.