The Buffalo Bills lost 27-15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 of the preseason in an effort that can only be described as uninspiring. The Bills failed in all three phases of the game for all four quarters of the game. While the plan was, reportedly, to keep the starters in for a quarter and a half, the lackluster, and at times disastrous, play left Sean McDermott no choice but to pull starters earlier than that. A good decision to protect his players, but the starters did little to instill any confidence for Week 1 of the regular season, and the backups even less.
We’ll take a look at what little inspiration there was from this game, inquire seriously about the MIKE linebacker position, discuss why the Bills require a better performance at right tackle, and dig into the most irksome part of this game.
Inspire – Offensive Rookies & Trent Sherfield:
It may not seem like there was a whole lot of inspiration to take away from this game, but nevertheless, the Bills did manage to find some goodness in their younger players tonight. Dalton Kincaid displayed exactly why the Bills wanted him in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. His smooth athleticism, steady hands, and football intelligence make for a ready-made receiver that the Bills need to help with Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Dawson Knox. In addition, O’Cyrus Torrence received the start at right guard again and performed admirably. The Bills seem to be putting a lot of faith in their first two picks, and it seems to be paying off. Nick Broeker and Justin Shorter also played fairly well in the second half working with the backups, with Shorter scoring a TD on the Bills’ final drive. It’s a good sign for both as they both have stiff competition to make this roster.
Another player deserving of praise is Trent Sherfield, who seems to have all but locked up the WR4 spot. Sherfield’s blocking in the run game and his toughness in the receiving game are both impressive and a great addition to the receiving corps.
Inquire – MIKE Linebacker:
What’s the plan here? It’s time to start asking that question because unlike at right tackle (which will be discussed next), the Bills have lots of options at middle linebacker. The problem is that none of those options are all that appealing. Tyrel Dodson is a middling player at best and seems to be too hot-headed and temperamental to be considered a leader, especially in the wake of Tremaine Edmunds. Terrel Bernard is intriguing, but his injury history suggests that the old adage “your best ability is your availability” might be the best description for him. Then there’s A.J. Klein, who knows this defense, but is very limited in terms of his ceiling (but at least you know what you’ll get from him). There’s also Dorian Williams and Baylon Spector, but the Bills don’t seem all that interested in either one for this position. All in all, it’s either a mystery that the Bills will have to roll the dice on, or bite the bullet and play someone that they know isn’t really good enough to be in the middle of this defense.
Spencer Brown has been a question mark for this team since last season. A back surgery forced him to miss the 2022 offseason, and his play on the field in 2022 was clearly affected by that lack of work in the offseason and dealing with recovery. At least that was the assumption with Brown, but with two preseason games in 2023 done, the book seems to be out on Brown and it sucks. He seems to be a book with a great cover, something that isn’t simply a cheap Photoshop, but the writing and content of the book isn’t good. In the case of Spencer Brown, his athletic potential has been the biggest selling point and the thing that provides a spark of hope. But the reality of Spencer Brown seems to be an underachiever whose athletic potential is simply that; potential. The real problem is the fact that the Bills have no realistic options outside of Brown to start at right tackle. They re-signed David Quessenberry and brought in Brandon Shell who recently retired. The Bills need Spencer Brown to work because they put all their eggs in his basket.
It’s hard to have 12 penalties in a game. The fact that the Bills managed to have 12 penalties called against them in the first half is almost impressive. Or it would be if it weren’t so frustrating. As one particular recapper mentioned last week (this is your hint to read last week’s recap) penalties are not an uncommon occurrence for the Bills in the Sean McDermott era. This takes it to an entirely separate level though, as the Bills consistently self-imploded and put themselves in poor positions all night long. Suffice to say, it’s a problem, and it needs to be corrected swiftly, because as the Bills discovered last year, the only team that can beat the Bills is when the Bills beat themselves. With their schedule, and their division being as difficult as it is, penalties play a major factor in maximizing the team’s potential of trying to reach a super bowl.
The Bills will finish the preseason against the Chicago Bears next Saturday at 1:00 PM. The Bills have a lot of work to do from now until then, and while it’s important to not overemphasize the preseason as a sort of predictor of the regular season, it’s also fair to see where there are strengths and weaknesses on this team, and Saturday, the weaknesses shone through big time.