Before the season started and during the opening weeks, it looked like being a long and humbling season for the Bills.
Well not so, and even in defeat they’ve once again vindicated the decision to hire Chan Gailey. This team continues to make massive strides. This overtime loss to the Steelers could be looked at as them blowing an opportunity (or opportunities) to win, but it shouldn’t be ignored how well they played.
For Pittsburgh, you really doubt their Super Bowl chances given how fortunate they were to walk out of this one with the W. The offensive line is a mess all over, and there’s a greater degree of uncertainty about them than what we’re used to. Still, there’s also plenty of time to right those wrongs.
Steelers: Performances of note
Though he played the second half hurt, the return to form of Ben Roethlisberger (+6.7) continues. Despite being faced with an offensive line that seemed to want him to get hit at times, Ben avoided the turnovers and kept the chains moving despite his receivers dropping three passes. It wasn’t the kind of display that will show up on the stat sheet — and it’s interesting that Ben only threw one pass beyond twenty yards — but with the protection as it was that’s perfectly understandable.
The big problems for the Steelers are coming on both lines. With the Bills running near exclusive three and four receiver sets, we got to see an awful lot of Ziggy Hood (-2.2) and Nick Eason (-2.3), with the two combining for three quarterback pressures (from 79 combined pass rushes) and neither man excelled themselves in run defense. As good as the Steelers linebackers are (though they were not great in this one) they need more help than this.
Perhaps the most positive play on defense was that of William Gay (+2.7). Weeks after giving up three TDs versus the Pats, Gay responded with his best game in some time. Initially covering the slot, Gay moved into the starting lineup when Bryant McFadden went down injured and responded by breaking up two of the eight balls thrown his way, and only allowing 36 yards. This is more like the Gay we saw at the end of 2008 and not since the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
Bills: Peformances of note
Whenver I’ve done a Re-Focused for the Bills I’ve either mentioned Kyle Williams (+12.6) or made reference to not mentioning him because it’s the easy thing to do. Well there’s no way you can have a game this good and not get mentioned. By a distance, it’s the best mark we’ve ever given out to a defensive tackle — this was near perfect as Williams destroyed the Steelers’ interior. He ended the day with a couple of sacks, another quarterback hit and three further quarterback pressures but his work in run defense was stellar. He had another seven tackles to go with his sacks and drew four holding penalties (and it could have been more). If you didn’t have Williams down as Defensive Player of the Year candidate beforehand, you should have now.
On the flip side, we may have seen the worst performance from a receiver during our time. A week after making our All-PFF team, Steve Johnson (-4.1) ‘drops’ to the week 12 Had a Bad Day team after dropping an incredible five passes (and there were a couple more debatable ones that could have gone down as drops). You can focus on the overtime pass, and probably should, but the rest of his performance shows there’s still plenty of development needed in Johnson’s fledgling career.
Ending on a positive in what was a positive effort for Buffalo. The Bills’ offensive line held up extremely and unexpectedly well on their 50 dropbacks against Pittsburgh’s great pass rush. with the lowest grade being a -0.9 for Andy Levitre and Demetrius Bell (+0.2) only giving up three quarterback pressures. In defeat, that was perhaps the biggest positive to take out of this.
Center Maurkice Pouncey (-3.3) had some real problems, giving up a sack, hit and pressure as well as a penalty … Emmanuel Sanders (-1.7) was given a chance to stake his claim to be the number three receiver and dropped a ball that could have gone for a TD and only caught two others.
Alex Carrington (+1.8) was forced into extended playing time with Dwan Edwards out and responded admirably with a sack, pressure and further defensive stop … We liked what we saw from Torell Troup (+2.0) in run defense, though he’ll have tougher tests than this going forward … Nickel rusher Arthur Moats (+0.5) picked up two QB pressures, while Antonio Coleman (-1.3) struggled to make an impact … Receivers Donald Jones (-0.8) and David Nelson (+0.2) saw plenty of action with Nelson being the more reliable target.
With the performance of Kyle Williams, the Bills have on their roster two players who hold three of the four highest grades we’ve ever given out to defensive tackles (in his debut year with the Bills, Marcus Stroud got the other two) … Weird day for James Harrison (+2.2) with lots of good and bad. Five tackles and 5 quarterback disruptions? Good. Two missed tackles and a personal foul penalty? Bad. … The Steelers’ offensive linemen were whistled for 13 penalties in this one, 10 of which were accepted. Compare that to the Falcons’ offensive line — 11 penalties ALL SEASON.