Now I know I could go on and on about how piss-poor Ben Roethlisberger’s pass-blocking was this afternoon. In addition, I could write an incensed piece on how Todd Haley red zone play-calling is an utter joke. The fact that Shamarko Thomas and Ramon Foster left the game at various points were some definite negatives as well. And yes, I noticed those “junior varsity” punts from Mat McBriar too.
Nevertheless, I will try to keep things positive and give credit where it is due after the Steelers’ 23-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field.
After spotting the Bills a 3-0 lead, the Steelers’ offense came alive to score 23 unanswered points over the next three quarters. Despite their pass-blocking issues (four sacks), Pittsburgh’s offensive line did a fine job opening holes for their running backs. Le’Veon Bell (57), Jonathan Dwyer (38), and Felix Jones (16) combined for 111 rushing yards, and Emmanuel Sanders added a nifty 25 yard run on a reverse.
Overall, Pittsburgh gained 136 yards on three carries and a rushing touchdown by Bell helped Pittsburgh extend their lead to 17-3 after a bone-headed play by Marcell Dareus kept the drive alive.
While “Big Ben” didn’t light things up offensively (18/30, 204 yards, one touchdown), he made some nice throws and hooked up with Jerricho Cotchery on a nice fade route in the second quarter to put his team ahead 10-3. When he had adequate time to throw, he found his favorite target Antonio Brown (six catches 104 yards) for some big third down conversions to extend key drives.
The real stars of today’s game were on the defensive side of the ball though. After they hunkered down and only allowed the Bills to score a field goal on their first drive, they pitched a shutout until three seconds remained in the game and Buffalo scored a “garbage time” touchdown helped largely due to a “non-fumble” call inside Pittsburgh’s five yard line.
After their disastrous performance against New England last weekend, the Steelers only allowed 227 total yards to the Bills and kept them out of the end zone for the first 59:57 of the game. The defensive line and the rest of the front-seven were much more stout at the point of attack and limited Buffalo to only 95 yards rushing.
In addition, the defense did a tremendous job of standing firm on third downs and preventing EJ Manuel from sustaining any long drives. The Bills were limited to only 3-14 on third downs, and Pittsburgh’s pass rush finally turned up the heat in the second half. Lawrence Timmons, Cameron Heyward, and rookie Jarvis Jones each recorded a sack, and the pressure supplied by Jones led to a Ryan Clark interception as well.
Even the special teams units had their moments today. Shaun Suisham was back to his reliable self and went 3-3 on field goals, and Antonio Brown took a punt return for 50 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Suisham’s final field goal.
At 3-6 the Steelers are not exactly “postseason bound” right now. Still, it was nice to see some fire and passion out of this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Now I know that they just defeated a 3-6 team at home, but watching the running game churn out some hard yards was a definite plus. And yes, I understand that the defense just picked apart a rookie quarterback. Yet their solid play on third downs and the effort which they put forth to stop drives from being extended was nice to watch to boot.
Although this franchise is still “rebuilding” and there are numbers of problems which must be fixed, it was nevertheless good to see the team pick up a much-needed “W” this weekend.
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