PIT-BUF grades: Bell’s career day powers Steelers win

The biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Steelers’ victory over the Bills.

| 5 months ago
(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

PIT-BUF grades: Bell’s career day powers Steelers win

[Editor’s note: Le’Veon Bell’s grade was initially published as a 78.1 on Sunday, Dec. 11. Due to changes made during the review process, Bell’s grade against the Bills has been updated to 86.6.]

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Buffalo Bills 20

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 36.9

Struggling Roethlisberger saved by running game

Despite Pittsburgh’s comfortable win against Buffalo, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not have a good game on Sunday afternoon. On the contrary, Pittsburgh’s signal caller was repeatedly not on the same page with his receivers as two of his interceptions were the result of miscommunication. In addition, he also misread the coverage and did not see defenders on a couple occasions, one of which turned into an interception in Buffalo’s end zone. Overall, Roethlisberger completed only three of his 12 attempts travelling 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage.


Top offensive grades:

T Marcus Gilbert, 80.0
C Maurkice Pouncey, 79.0
HB Le’Veon Bell, 86.6
T Alejandro Villanueva, 73.8
G B.J. Finney, 71.4

Le’Veon Bell’s career day too much for Bills to handle

While Pittsburgh tried and was able to create a couple big plays through the air, it was the running game that worked best against Buffalo. Even though there were not a lot of dominant blocks made by the Pittsburgh offensive line, they did just enough to keep Buffalo defensive linemen and linebackers out of the holes. In addition, Le’Veon Bell’s patience and ability to find small creases did not hurt either. Center Maurkice Pouncey and tackle Marcus Gilbert contributed the most from the offensive line as they were frequently able to take out Buffalo linebackers at the second level.

Top defensive grades:

LB Ryan Shazier, 84.5
DI Stephon Tuitt, 80.6
CB Ross Cockrell, 74.5
ED Bud Dupree, 74.2
LB Lawrence Timmons, 71.3

Ryan Shazier bounces back in Buffalo

After putting up his first negatively graded performance since Week 7 last Week against the Giants, Ryan Shazier bounced back nicely to lead the Steelers defense in Week 14. Shazier led Pittsburgh’s defense with six tackles and he also tied with Bud Dupree for a team-high five stops (a stop is a solo tackle which constitutes as a loss for the offense, given the situation). Dupree also combined with Stephon Tuitt to record seven total pressures on Tyrod Taylor (four for Dupree, three for Tuitt), including three sacks. On the back end, Ross Cockrell allowed three of four catches for 46 yards (all three catches being caught by Sammy Watkins) to go with a pass breakup; Cockrell also recorded one stop.

Buffalo Bills

Quarterback grade: Tyrod Taylor, 70.3

QB not the issue in Bills loss

Bills fans are beginning to grow restless with their second-year starter, and although he couldn’t carry the team to victory this weekend, he certainly wasn’t the downfall for Buffalo either against Pittsburgh. Taylor was effective when throwing the ball in the intermediate range of the field, completing four of six passes for 80 of his 228 passing yards and both of his touchdowns on balls that traveled between 10 and 19 yards in the air. Taylor also had a nice day throwing against the blitz, completing eight of 11 passes for 115 yards to go with both of his touchdowns and a 145.8 QB rating against the blitz.

Top offensive grades:

C Ryan Groy, 78.9
T Cordy Glenn, 76.6
T Jordan Mills, 74.8
G Richie Incognito, 74.3
WR Sammy Watkins, 71.5

Running game flops in the snow

Buffalo’s offense has been one of the most lethal rushing attacks in the entire league for some time now, but they certainly didn’t look the part against the Steelers. As a team, Buffalo managed to rush for just 64 yards on the day, with 34 of those coming on what were essentially “garbage time” carries by Mike Gillislee to close out the first half. Richie Incognito was flawless in pass protection, not surrendering a single pressure on the day on 36 pass block attempts, but finished with just a 43.7 run blocking grade.

Top defensive grades:

S Corey Graham, 86.1
LB Preston Brown, 80.8
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, 78.4
ED Lorenzo Alexander, 78.0
CB Stephon Gilmore, 74.8

Inability to stop the run costs the Bills the game

Even though the Bills took advantage of Ben Roethlisberger’s and the Pittsburgh offense’s mistakes and made a couple plays in coverage, their work against the run significantly hurt the team’s chances. Buffalo’s front seven was unable to come off blocks and disrupt the run plays, which resulted in Le’Veon Bell averaging 2.6 yards before contact. While the defensive line failed to come off blocks, Buffalo’s back seven struggled to bring Bell to the ground as they missed eight tackles, including three by linebacker Zach Brown.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

  • Adam

    So… at least eight players had a better/more impactful game than Bell? Oh PFF, I still like this site but wow.

    • Anthony Schroeder

      Better game, but Bell had 38 carries… he was the game decider.

      Someone can have an amazing game but only play a few plays.

      • Adam

        I understand what you’re saying, i.e., a player could have a better grade on 10 touches vs 40 touches if he’s making a higher impact per play. But, in what way would Bell’s high volume of touches be held against him in this game? It says in the article above that “there were not a lot of dominant blocks made by the Pittsburgh offensive line”. So if the Steelers’ offensive line wasn’t dominant in the ground game, and Bell was only solid in this game, then how did these results happen? It’s not just that eight players were “better”, it’s that Bell’s grade of 78.1 does NOT reflect what he did on the field. By PFF’s old system, that would be a grade of +1 or +2 at best, which anyone who’s read the content of this site for years would find insane.

  • Alejandro Caballero

    I really don’t get how you grade, what were Bells mistakes for having acording to your system an “average” Day?

    • Thomas W

      I dunno, the Bills couldn’t run the ball, were sacked 5 times, but still have four OL’s graded 74+.

  • Izach

    I’d have to relook but shazier had glaring mistakes in this game idk how he’d grade out as the best defender.