The Buffalo Bills annihilated the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Week 5 meeting, with Sean McDermott’s side beating that of his former college teammate by the score of 38-3. After a bit of a strange start to the game, the Bills settled in and proved the strength of their roster by taking a beleaguered Steelers team and pounding them into the turf. It wasn’t just that the final score was so dominant, it was that the Bills had this game put away by the end of the first half. Outside of their own mistakes, the Bills were spectacular in attacking and completely dismantling the Steelers.
Below we’ll take a look at the parts of the game that inspired the most confidence, created some cause for inquiries, a player that requires a better performance, and the most irksome part of the game.
Inspire – Josh Allen + Wide Receivers:
Josh Allen was spectacular today, firing bombs and bullets to Gabriel Davis, Stefon Diggs, and others to the tune of 424 passing yards and a 134.1 passer rating. Davis had a particularly incredible game, catching a 98-yard touchdown on the opening drive and then stealing the ball away from Minkah Fitzpatrick on what seemed to be a sure interception to score another six. Stefon Diggs was spectacular, beating his coverage often, and picking up great YAC.
More than that, two young receivers who needed to make plays to help make up for the injuries to Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie played very well today. Khalil Shakir made a couple of good catches (and had an unfortunate drop) while also reeling in his first career TD catch. Isaiah Hodgins, who has been a difficult roster cut in three consecutive preseasons, was called up from the practice squad and made good on his opportunity, catching four passes for 41 yards. All in all, a very good performance from the Bills’ offense, in particular from the franchise QB, and his plethora of good wide receivers.
Inquire – The Run Game:
When does this run game make a real impact? New offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was supposed to make a significant impact on the Bills’ OL and, in particular, the run game. So far, it looks more or less the same for the Bills’ run game; Devin Singletary has a couple of runs that gain good yards, and Josh Allen gets a few designed runs and scrambles for yards and maybe a TD. So far, this isn’t anything new for the run game, and it became a problem in this game when the Bills couldn’t generate big plays and had to score in the red zone. Buffalo gave the ball away twice in the red zone and, in general, left numerous points off the board. James Cook gets credit for getting his first career TD run, and perhaps that’s a springboard for him to get a bit more momentum and confidence, but overall this run game has been extremely inconsistent, and it forces Allen to be superhero-esque week in and week out.
Require – Kaiir Elam:
It was a rough day for cornerback Kaiir Elam, as the Steelers had their sights set on him all day long. Elam did manage to snag an INT on fellow rookie Kenny Pickett but struggled down to down against George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. It’s expected for a rookie to have his ups and downs, especially at a position as unforgiving as cornerback, but this was certainly a down game for Elam who hadn’t really been tested yet as a player. This game might be all the proof other teams (like the Chiefs) need to plan their passing attack around consistently going after a rookie like Elam. Elam is more than capable of being a good player if his athleticism is any indicator, but he needs to be more consistent moving forward.
Irk – Special Teams:
Tyler Bass managed to recover after an early missed FG, but the game opening on a muffed kick return from Taiwan Jones was bizarre. Not that the ball was muffed, the conditions were tough for tracking a kick or punt. The real issue is the Bills insisting on wanting to put anyone other than Khalil Shakir in that position, despite Shakir being listed as the main return specialist coming out of the preseason. The Bills did turn to Shakir after Jones’ muff, and he had a good 34-yard return on a kickoff, but he also made a poor decision to let a ball go on a punt that allowed it to roll inside the five-yard line. The Bills have always been cautious and slow in bringing rookies into more regular roles, but this almost seems too cautious. He might make a decision on a punt return that isn’t ideal, but he seems very sure-handed and capable of making big plays in the return game.
The Bills face what will likely be the biggest test of their season next Sunday when they take on their non-division rival Chiefs in Kansas City at 4:25 PM. It will certainly be a difficult task going against the offensive juggernaut that is the Kansas City Chiefs, but this is the standard the Bills will need to set if they want to make the Super Bowl. At some point, it almost feels inevitable that the Bills will meet the Chiefs again in the playoffs, and they will have to put together their best efforts to slow down this offense and beat their defense.