The Buffalo Bills moved back into a tie for the top of the AFC East with a 23-20 home win over Baltimore on Sunday now they look to stay there as they host the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, they had to slow down a former MVP and one of the league’s top QBs in Lamar Jackson. This week, it’s a showdown with rookie Kenny Pickett, who is making his first career start. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on once things kick off in Orchard Park.
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The Bills entered the 2021 season as one of the favorites to win the AFC and head to the Super Bowl. They then went out in week one and lost to the Steelers 21-16 in a weird game that featured six field goals and the eventual difference being a nine-yard punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Buffalo enters this game with a 3-1 record and is once again favorites to make it to the AFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Steelers are 1-3 and the season already looks lost as they turn to rookie QB Kenny Pickett (more on him later.) The Bills are favored to get their revenge by 14 points (more on that later), so all signs point to Buffalo earning an easy win and moving to 4-1 on the year.
Don’t Let Them Steel A Win
It was kind of a thing for the Bills to lose a game they had no business dropping last season. You already read about the 21-16 defeat at the hands of the Steelers above, but that was just one of three that seemed to get away from Buffalo. The game everyone points to is the 9-6 loss down in Jacksonville. In a season where Urban Meyer appeared to have other priorities, dropping a game to the Jaguars was inexcusable. In that game, the Bills’ offense only mustered 301 yards, the fewest for 2021 besides our next game. Buffalo also lost 14-10 to New England, where they racked up just 230 yards of total offense. In their defense, that was the game where the weather went full Lake Erie Hurricane. The Bills also avenged that loss in a big way in the history playoff win over the Patriots.
The Steelers are handing the keys to the car over to rookie QB Kenny Pickett for the first time this season. Buffalo’s defense, especially the secondary, should be salivating at this opportunity. In his first real action, Pickett threw three interceptions on just 13 pass attempts. Worth noting, that was against the vaunted New York Jets defense. He now faces a Bills’ defense with the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Jordan Poyer who came down with two picks against the Ravens last week. Pickett and the Steelers’ offensive line must also deal with a Bills’ front that features three of Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) top graded pass rushers in Boogie Basham, Greg Rousseau, and Von Miller. Add it all together, and we should see an opportunity for the Bills’ D to get to work on an inexperienced offensive leader.
Establish The Run-ning Backs
The Bills running game outside of Josh Allen is just awful! Allen paces Buffalo’s rushing attack with 183 yards while the next closest is Devin Singletary with just 129 yards. Those 129 yards are good, or bad, enough for the 48th most. The Bills’ two rushing touchdowns in 2022 have come from…you guessed it…Josh Allen. No other player on the team has found paydirt on the ground. This also isn’t one of those skewed stats where Singletary, Zack Moss, and the other backs are trailing Allen because he is getting some unworldly number of touches. The QB’s yards per carry also leads the team at 6.1. Moss is the closest back to Allen with 5.3 yards per carry on his 16 carries for 84 yards. This might not be all on the RBs entering week five Pro Football Focus has the Bills’ run blocking graded as the worst in the NFL at 47.5. Buffalo, Seattle, and Las Vegas are the only teams below 50 in those PFF run grades. If the Bills can establish an early lead, it would be nice to see them work on some things in the run game before we get too deep into the season.
When the Bills vs. Steelers line was posted by some sites a week ago it was Bills -9.5 points. That number is up to a historic -14 in favor of the home team. The -14 spread is the largest of the week by 4.5 points over the Bucs’ -9.5 line versus the Falcons. This number is also the widest margin for a Steelers team in franchise history. They were established in 1933. That’s an 89 year history. The over/under is currently set at 46, giving us an implied score of Buffalo 30 and Pittsburgh 16. I’m going, to be honest and say I’ll be a little disappointed if the Bills allow 16 to the Steelers given everything I mentioned above.