Bills vs. Steelers: Takeaways from Pittsburgh's 23-10 Victory over Buffalo
A win like this is one from which a team can build, but they cannot become complacent. The Steelers had an early hiccup in the game, but after that, they exerted themselves on both sides of the football, winning a battle of attrition with the Bills, pulling away late.
Is the season saved? Can the Steelers start thinking about a possible playoff spot again? Let's take a look at some of the takeaways from Sunday's big win.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.
Are We Talkin' About Playoffs?
Is it really possible that a 3-6 football team can be in the playoff hunt? It is this year. While the Cincinnati Bengals still hold the lead in the AFC North, they are on a two-game losing streak.
At this point, the AFC North winner could easily be an 8-8 football team, so the Steelers just need to keep on winning and let the chips fall where they may. It's hard to fathom the Steelers still have something to play for, but it appears they certainly do.
Antonio Brown Keeps Making Plays
There aren't many players in the entire NFL who are more exciting to watch with the football in their hands than wide receiver Antonio Brown. His mix of speed and explosion is rare, and when he touches the ball, you never know what will happen.
Brown proved again on Sunday why he was re-signed and Mike Wallace was allowed to leave. If Brown would have only had six catches for 104 yards, it would have been impressive. But when you mix in 74 yards on two punt returns, his place among the top skill players in the league is more clear.
Less Roethlisberger Is More
Last Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 400 yards in a loss, and this week he throws for 204 yards in a win. Early in the game, it looked like Roethlisberger was going to be in for a long day.
However, after having his fourth pass attempt of the day intercepted, Roethlisberger settled down and played an effective, albeit conservative, game plan. When Roethlisberger doesn't have to force his game, the entire team benefits. The Steelers picked their shots in the passing attack, and the run game was just enough to keep the Bills defense on its toes.
The Offensive Line Was Less...Offensive
It's never good to give up four sacks, but the Steelers offensive line stepped up Sunday when it had to. The Bills defensive front is solid, and the Steelers front held its own. Lapses will always happen, but this was a group that could have folded its tent a long time ago, but hasn't.
This unit still needs to get healthy and some tweaking must happen in the offseason, but it was nice on Sunday to see it playing with some pride against a very good Bills defensive line.
Let's All Relax About Dick LeBeau
I understand it's sacrilege to ever say a cross word about Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Last week, when the Steelers got hammered by the New England Patriots, everyone wondered if he had lost his touch. This week, when the Steelers defense snuffs out the Bills offense, LeBeau is the man again.
Guess what? Neither game had much to do with him. The fundamental difference between the two weeks? The opposing quarterbacks. LeBeau didn't suddenly get his groove back this week. He got to scheme a defense against a rookie quarterback coming off an injury.
Let's not make it into more than what it is. I love LeBeau as much as the next guy, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady schooled this group two weeks ago, and the Steelers were licking their chops at getting quarterback EJ Manuel.
Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley Wants Balance
Fans love the flash. So, having an offense run the football 33 times while only throwing it 30 might seem boring. And admittedly, there were stretches of Sunday's game where very little happened. However, the results speak for themselves. The Steelers held the football for 11 more minutes in the game while only running three more plays.
Balance within this offense keeps everyone involved and doesn't put the onus on a single player if the team cannot be successful.
Roethlisberger Didn't Play Like a Guy Who Wants to Be Traded
The big news before and during the game was about the report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport claiming that Roethlisberger was going to ask for a trade at the end of the season due to frustration with the direction of the franchise.
Here's what Roethlisberger had to say after the game about the allegations, per Jay Busbee of Shutdown Corner:
"That's completely unacceptable," Roethlisberger said when asked about the reports. "I don't know where that came from, it's one of the most B.S. stories I've ever heard of. I've always said I wanted to be a Steeler for life, I love it here, I'm happy here. I don't want to go anywhere. No one in my camp, my family, my agents, no one has ever said anything about that. So where ever this was made up from, it's totally false."
I'm not sure where this story will go, but early in the game, it seemed like it weighed on Roethlisberger as he made some lazy throws. But as the game progressed, his focus returned. This is an issue that will need to be monitored for the remainder of the season.
The NFL Draft Has Not Been Kind
Watching this team play on Sunday, it is clear that there needs to be more attention to detail when it comes to early draft picks. The 2014 NFL draft is going to be vital for the future of this franchise. Seeing players like offensive tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert and linebacker Jarvis Jones struggling so much is frustrating.
This is a franchise that doesn't delve into free agency, so if this team is to rebuild, it must do so via the draft. I haven't lost hope in all these young players on the roster, but it is time for them to start to produce.