Bills Brace for Pivotal Prime Time Game in Pittsburgh


Despite a rough offensive day, it came down to the last possession, and Buffalo almost stole a game from the best team in the league at this moment, the Baltimore Ravens. After losing the fourth game of the season, the Bills sit at a 9-4 record, relying upon themselves to lock in another trip to the playoffs, the second in three years under Sean McDermott. With three games remaining, one more win will be enough to clinch a playoff spot, but McDermott doesn’t want to let his players look past any games. All that matters now is this Sunday’s match-up, in prime time, when the Bills take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“One week at a time. Respect the opponent. Respect our preparation… Respect the process as we prepare and get some rest,” said McDermott. “Get themselves ready to go. This is a good football team we’re going to face. A team that’s had a lot of success if you study the tradition of the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s going to be a good week in preparation for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Steelers are making a surge, also fighting for a wildcard spot. They’ve won their last three games behind an aggressive defensive unit that ranks very well in several key stats. “They’re really good. I think they have eight or nine first-rounders. They can rush the passer. They can stop the run. We’re just starting on them here, but I think they’re first in takeaways, second in the league in negative plays, first in sacks,” said Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll, whose unit will be facing another tough challenge Sunday. “Good situational football team, they’re 7-1 in their last eight, 3-0 in their last three. They have a lot of good players. They have a good coaching staff. it’s a pretty impressive group. Another top-five or six defense like Denver was, like Dallas was, like Baltimore is, like they are, so we’re going to have to do a good job of putting together a good plan, having a good week, and then playing in a tough environment.”

After a pair of impressive performances, Daboll’s group regressed sharply against a very aggressive Ravens defense. They blitzed a lot, challenging quarterback Josh Allen to beat them deep, an area were he’s been struggling so far in his young career, and particularly this season. “Yeah, we were behind the defense on a few plays there and just didn’t connect. And there were other times I’d say if you got read one and read one is open, go ahead and give it to him. But, like the third play of the game, we didn’t execute. I didn’t do a good enough job,” said Daboll, who wasn’t perfect, but who also shouldn’t be blamed for poor execution by his players. “We had some three-and-outs early on, never got into a good rhythm. So, that first third down was a long play to Smoke [John Brown], where the safety came down and we had him, just missed on it. And then the next one was a 3rd-and-12, when he was just reading it down, top-to-bottom, it was a levels play. I think he settled in as the game went on. And again, that defense is a tough defense to prepare for. And then when you get out there in live action, they do so many different things. They have so many different fronts, so many different pressures. They play every coverage that you can play. Give them credit; they did a really good job.”

According to Daboll, the Ravens sent 16 zero blitzes Allen’s way, harassing him consistently. It wasn’t the first time he struggled against this type of approach, though. Before being held to just 105 net passing yards by the Ravens, Allen couldn’t make New England pay for sending the house consistently in week three. He finished that game completing just 13 of 28 passes for 153 yards, no TDs and three INTs. We can expect Pittsburgh to emulate this game plan to some extent, and it’ll be imperative to have better execution by the offensive players to avoid the same type of problems faced on those two occasions. The plays are there to be made; it’s up to the players to not leave those opportunities on the field.