The Pittsburgh Steelers were 14-point underdogs this week against the Buffalo Bills in spite of Buffalo’s absurd injury list. The Bills started fast and kept scoring, ultimately winning 38-3 in a game that easily could have been even more lopsided had Buffalo not called off the dogs in the second half.
The Bills limited Pittsburgh’s top players, especially once their offense made its way into scoring territory. While a few Steelers were able to rack up some stats, those stats were ultimately empty in a lopsided loss.
Here’s how those Steelers to watch fared against our Bills this week.
QB Kenny Pickett
All things considered, the rookie had a pretty good day. He was decisive and accurate, he showed good mobility and good arm strength, and he didn’t take any you-know-what from Buffalo’s tenacious defense. The stats will say that he had a better day than he did in reality, as he completed 34-of-52 passes for 327 yards, adding one rush for 10 yards. However, Pickett was unable to lead a scoring drive beyond a march that ended with a field goal on the team’s opening possession, and he was intercepted by rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam at the end of the first half. On the other five Pittsburgh drives that made it into Buffalo territory, two ended with missed field goal tries, and three ended with failed fourth-down conversions. Pickett was angry that Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson tried to wrap him up low on the final play from scrimmage for the game, and he shoved Lawson, touching off a mini-scrum. He might not be “it” quite yet, but there was a lot to like from the rookie. Making the first start of his career against this Buffalo team in Highmark Stadium is no small ask, and he rose to the moment about as well as could be expected.
RB Najee Harris
The Steelers really needed a running game to help Pickett out this week, and the Bills ended any hope that they’d be able to find that running game early in the contest. Harris carried 11 times for just 20 yards, as the Bills swarmed him at every opportunity. He was targeted four times in the passing game, catching three of those passes for 16 more yards. Harris is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry this year, and the Bills were up to the task of slowing him down.
WR George Pickens
Man, this guy is going to be great. Kaiir Elam was the corner who had the misfortune of matching up with Pickens for much of the afternoon, and that was a matchup that Pickett and Pickens were able to exploit—at least between the 20-yard lines. Pickens saw eight targets, and he caught six of them for 83 yards. He showed off his YAC ability more than once, catching some short tosses and bulling his way through Buffalo’s corners for additional yardage. He even broke through a press cover setup by just chucking cornerback Dane Jackson to the ground. Pickens has a rare combination of size, strength, and speed, and that combination is going to make him a favorite target of Pickett’s for years to come.
DT Cam Heyward
Last year, the big defensive tackle teamed up with T.J. Watt to wreck Buffalo’s game plan in Pittsburgh’s 23-16 Week 1 victory. This time, Heyward was able to make some plays, but without Watt, the Bills were able to commit more resources to stopping Heyward. Their efforts were mostly successful, as he was not credited with a quarterback hit or a tackle for a loss. However, he was able to bat a pass down at the line, which has been one of the only things that quarterback Josh Allen has struggled with this year (maybe it’s just me, but for a guy who’s 6’5”, it seems like Allen has an inordinate number of passes tipped at the line). Heyward also blocked kicker Tyler Bass’s first field goal attempt of the day, easily leaping to bat the low Bass boot. Heyward had five total tackles, though just one of those was a solo tackle.
CB Levi Wallace
Our old friend wasn’t too friendly early on, as he intercepted former teammate Allen on an attempted red zone fade to Gabe Davis. That play came just a few moments after Wallace had stuck with wide receiver Stefon Diggs on a deep ball for a pass breakup. Wallace was also juked out of his shoes on a Diggs route where Allen misfired on what would have been an easy touchdown. Wallace had three tackles, two pass breakups, and one interception on his day, which unfortunately ended early due to a concussion.