What We Learned: Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

By Ryan Womeldorf
Bills Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

That’s what I get for having hope.

The Buffalo Bills entered Sunday, a visit to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on the slate, looking like the favorite based on recent play.

Sixty minutes of blah and the Bills find themselves asking, “just what the hell was that?” on their way to 3-7. Frankly, I was asking the same thing through much of the day, but the empty room wasn’t going to answer that for me. The cat just wanted food.

So let’s get on with it and see what we learned from Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Steelers.

Vaunted Run Game

Remember how one of my keys to victory focused on the Steelers’ 31st ranked rushing defense and the Bills top-five rushing offense? Yeah, about that …

The Steelers held the Bills to just 95 yards rushing – 50 below their season average coming into the game – and gave C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson very little room to work with. With E.J. Manuel struggling to shake off the rust in his first start back from injury, the Steelers were allowed to tee off on the run game and forcing Buffalo into situations they didn’t want.

This is probably the biggest issue with this offense in its current incarnation. If you can limit the passing game, the running game is there to be shut down. That’s how the NFL works. If the running game is being focused on and attacked, it’s very hard to find room to run and actually make things happen.

Buffalo learned the hard way with this one.

Help Wanted

All things considered, this defense didn’t play poorly. What can you expect, really, when your offense is sputtering along, not doing a whole lot?

The defense had four sacks on the day, including one from Jerry Hughes who’s hit a career-high of five. The team has 33 sacks on the year, putting them fourth in the league in that category. They limited quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to just a shade over 200 yards passing and one touchdown on the day while holding the Steelers to under 100 yards rushing.

Another thing to consider: on two of Shaun Suisham’s field goals, the Steelers were set up by an interception and a 50-yard punt return. The defense did enough to shut the Steelers down and prevent further damage, but when the opponent is starting on your side of the field, there’s only so much you can do.

It’s hard to ask for a much better performance and when you respond with the offensive day the Bills had, you sympathize with the defense a bit.

Manuel Control

As mentioned above, Manuel returned to the lineup after missing five weeks due to injury and it definitely looked like there was still a layer of rust that needed to be shaken off.

The rookie quarterback, who added a dynamic and intriguing aspect to the Bills offense before his injury, went just 22-of-39 for 155 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Steelers got after him and helped him to an awful day.

Maybe it was too much to expect Manuel to fit right back in after time off, so he gets a mulligan in this one, but he’ll need to be back to his old self if they want any chance of beating the Jets at home in Week 11. That was already a tall task considering the recent history between the two teams.

See you next week.

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