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Five takeaways: Bills outgain Steelers but can’t put points on the board in Week 1 defeat

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers by the final score of 23-16 on opening weekend, and the game felt worse than that and also closer than that for the entire time. The Bills’ defense was very good shutting down the Steelers, but that doesn’t put points on the board.

Here are my takeaways from the game:

Amped up Allen

Josh Allen overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on a deep ball in the first quarter and Stefon Diggs in the second quarter (with Devin Singletary open underneath) on sure touchdowns. He looked uncomfortable, even after getting involved with his legs. After 25 minutes or so, he settled in nicely on the final drive of the second quarter. Seven completions, one throwaway, 86 yards, plus the touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis on a perfect throw in the back of the end zone and we thought it was Mega-Josh ready to roll. When he came out for the second half, it was more like the first Allen we saw. He seemed scattered in the second half. The Steelers dropped a lot of defenders into the passing lanes and hardly blitzed at all. It’s going to be a long week for QB1, and questions are going to persist about whether he was a one-year wonder who could only get it done when there weren’t fans in the stands. We don’t think that way here, but it’s going to be a narrative.

The other team practices, too

I think we’re forgetting the Steelers won 11 straight games a year ago and won their division. They have a really, really good defense, especially up front, and they caused fits for the Bills’ offensive line. Their receivers, specifically Chase Claypool, put the offense on their back and he was good enough to do it. They scored 20 straight points all in the second half after Buffalo took a 10-0 lead.

Brian Daboll overthinking or bad playcalling

What the hell was that fourth and short pass back to Matt Breida? Down ten with six minutes left in the game, not a single pass into the end zone on first and goal? Buffalo started in Pittsburgh territory TWICE and scored three points. Not to mention, he called eight runs for his $258 million quarterback during the game. I know, the Steelers’ defense was solid, but at some point, you have to overcome that. He’s going to take a lot of flack for his play-calling in this game because no one looked comfortable, and it’s going to be deserved.

Turnovers and big plays

The Bills had four fumbles on the day, but the T.J. Watt strip-sack that was the only turnover of the game. The Bills’ special teams allowed a punt block return touchdown. A Tre’Davious White interception was overturned by a ticky-tacky holding call. Buffalo had more first downs, nearly 50 percent more offensive plays, outgained Pittsburgh by 120 yards, started the game with a huge kickoff return, and held the ball for 6:30 longer. None of that mattered with the huge plays from the Steelers.

Buffalo’s defense is legit

They allowed 54 yards of offense in the first half, with just seven on the ground. When you hold the other team to 33 percent third-down conversion percentage and 252 yards of offense, you should win the darn game. They didn’t and they won’t say anything this week, but the guys in that locker room will know. I thought Ed Oliver had a very nice game.

Odds and ends

  • Rookie Greg Rousseau got the start on both of Buffalo’s first two drives at left defensive end. That’s an encouraging sign with Boogie Basham inactive.
  • Spencer Brown was the sixth OL in place of the departed Lee Smith.
  • 8 penalties for 81 yards is going to drive me nuts. Dion Dawkins isn’t 100 percent ready for game action yet.