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Bills vs. Steelers film analysis: How Buffalo slowed down Alex Highsmith

With T.J. Watt out of the lineup, the Bills could focus more on the Steelers’ next-best edge rusher

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills destroyed the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-3 at home in Week 5. One of the many reasons the Bills were able to dominate the Steelers so thoroughly was because they slowed down edge rusher Alex Highsmith. The Bills kept one of the Steelers’ best players sackless. Let’s have a look at the film to see how Buffalo accomplished this feat.

Play 1

When facing one of the better edge rushers in the NFL, a good counter is found in a good left tackle who can hold up one-on-one against him. Here, Highsmith is lined up on the outside shoulder of left tackle Dion Dawkins. At the snap, Highsmith goes bull rush, which Dawkins counters by absorbing it and avoiding the push backwards. Highsmith then goes to his speed rush, and Dawkins walls him off and goes foot for foot with him (Highsmith never gets to the edge of Dawkins).

Play 2

The best move Highsmith has is his spin move, which he routinely unleashes on opposing offensive tackles. At the snap, Highsmith goes to his spin move, which Dawkins absorbs while keeping his center of gravity. After Highsmith finishes the spin move, Dawkins is still right in front of him ready to continue pass blocking.

Play 3

Here, we have Highsmith with his hand in the dirt. At the snap, Highsmith explodes off the ball and makes contact with Dawkins. At contact, Dawkins gets inside control of Highsmith’s shoulder pads. He then slides his feet right and stands up Highsmith as the defender tries to get inside.

Play 4

Even though Dawkins handled Highsmith well in one-on-one situations for most of the game, it’s still beneficial to occasionally give him help. Here we see the Bills utilize tight end Quintin Morris to chip-block Highsmith. Morris lines up inside of Highsmith, and at the snap he chips (to redirect him a bit) before he goes out to run his route—then Dawkins immediately gets right on Highsmith.

Play 5

The Bills use the RPO game to fool Highsmith with this play. Pre-snap, Highsmith is standing on the right side where he’s on the outside shoulder of Dawkins. At the snap, the offensive line sells run as left guard Rodger Saffold and right guard Ryan Bates both pull right. Highsmith follows both guards to sniff out the run, while quarterback Josh Allen throws it to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. At no point does Highsmith ever attempt to play the pass.

In Summary

Coming into the Bills’ Week 5 clash with the Steelers, Highsmith had 5.5 sacks on the season—good for fifth in the NFL. Dawkins did a fantastic job handling Highsmith in one-on-one situations, and showed why he made his first Pro Bowl last year. It takes a team effort to slow down a good pass rusher, and the Bills certainly put that on display last weekend.