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Pregame Rumblings: Bills vs. Steelers preview

Are the Bills easy money as 14-point favorites?

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Buffalo Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium today for a 1:00 PM Eastern clash. There’s a slight chance of rain up until around 2:00 PM ET—around 30%.

Here are my thoughts and things to look for during this game:

  1. Even if it does rain, today’s weather will be the best conditions the Bills have played in since the Titans game. While it might not seem like a big deal, let’s take a minute to look at how they’ve performed the last two weeks. In Florida, the Bills outperformed the Miami Dolphins in every way except for where it matters most—the scoreboard. Wide receiver Gabriel Davis dropped a touchdown pass, while quarterback Josh Allen skipped a pass in the dirt to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Both of those plays and other situations were a direct result of the physical condition the players had to overcome on the field. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs told SB Nation’s Rob Guerrera that he had IVs in both arms during halftime. Several players left the game due to heat—and your body doesn’t recover from that overnight. So then to travel to Maryland and face the Baltimore Ravens after being physically exhausted was not an enviable task for Week 4. The rain played a factor in a few dropped passes, running back Devin Singletary’s fumble, and some missed tackles on defense. Now, the Bills finally have a chance to play in an environment that shouldn’t have much of an effect on the game. There were reports of potential wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour, but those odds remain low during game time.
  2. Did Mike Tomlin make the right decision benching quarterback Mitch Trubisky? Most people thought rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett should have been named the starter going into the season. I wasn’t one of those people. I really thought that better coaching and a good mix of weapons would allow Trubisky to thrive and lead Pittsburgh to at least a Wild Card spot. Instead, we’ve seen a timid quarterback who hasn’t been able to move the ball consistently or put up points. Pickett took chances last week against the New York Jets. He brought his team back and almost pulled off the win. You could almost feel the excitement of the team through the TV. But a head to head matchup with Allen is a tough task for any quarterback, especially one making his first professional start.
  3. Injuries are concerning. Both teams hoped to get healthier throughout the week. The Steelers appear to have done so. But the Bills are going to be without safety Jordan Poyer, and potentially linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips are still listed as questionable, as well, and will be game-time decisions. On offense, wide receiver Jamison Crowder is on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury, and McKenzie practiced in full Friday but is listed as questionable with a concussion. With every team being extra cautious with head injuries due to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries, I’m sure the Bills will be cautious about how involved McKenzie will be against Pittsburgh. I expect wide receiver Khalil Shakir to see more action, and perhaps even wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who was just called up from the practice squad.
  4. There are several things that factor into a 14-point spread. The Bills are going to be without some key players, as tight end Dawson Knox and safety Jordan Poyer have both been ruled out. But McKenzie should be back after suffering a concussion on a scary hit against the Baltimore Ravens. This season, Buffalo has performed in dominating fashion. Defensively, they have only allowed seven points total in the second half of games. The addition of edge rusher Von Miller is also paying early dividends. The defensive line has gotten to the quarterback without having to send additional defenders. This has allowed linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds to play free and fast. Rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam is starting his career off looking like a shutdown corner under defensive coordinator/assitant head coach Leslie Frazier’s direction.

For this week’s SGP, I’m picking Buffalo to cover. But I think Allen spreads the love around with an anytime touchdown to wide receiver Khalil Shakir. I also think the defense is too much for Kenny Pickett. It’s difficult for me to believe that a defense that can shut Lamar Jackson down for an entire half, will turn around and allow a rookie to come into Western New York and put up big points.