The Buffalo Bills started their much anticipated 2021 season with a confusing and frustrating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bills went back and forth with the Steelers defensively in the first half, with a Gabriel Davis touchdown capping off the first half with a 10-3 lead. But the Steelers ultimately made adjustments and executed better while the Bills faltered in the second half.
This recap will explore something that should inspire fans about the Bills performance, what we need to inquire more about, identify a player or coach that requires a better performance, and the thing that is most irksome about the Bills’ performance.
Inspiring: The Defense
While Ben Roethlisberger did his best to get the ball out as quickly as possible as he’s done late in his career, the Bills defensive line looked much improved from 2020.
Ed Oliver in particular looked dominant, pushing the Steelers’ offensive line around with ease, causing disruption and making big plays in the run game. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano both played very well, with Edmunds looking quick and decisive, and Milano looking his usual quick and explosive self. Given that it was a major concern in 2020, particularly because they had invested so much into it, it was very encouraging to see the Bills’ defensive line, and the defense as a whole play extremely well, only giving up 16 points through the whole game.
Inquire: Brian Daboll & Offense
The Bills’ offense looked discombobulated all day. While some of that falls on the offensive line playing poorly against a tough defensive line, there were questionable moments throughout the game.
The fake QB sneak on 4th and 1 was a play caller getting too cute and overthinking things.
The inconsistency in the passing game came from a veritable cocktail of bad play from nearly every position group. Receivers dropped passes, (except for Dawson Knox, ironically, who caught three passes for three first downs), Singletary and Brieda couldn’t find consistent yards, and Allen missed on a number of throws, while also fumbling the ball far too often in and out of the pocket.
Daboll however shoulders a lot of the blame in this game. Buffalo’s offensive line struggled early and often, and the Bills hardly adjusted their protections, leaving their linemen to fend for themselves. The Bills seemed to miss the presence of Zack Moss who was dominant in pass protection in 2020. The Bills and Brian Daboll are going to have to find some solutions to get this offense back on track.
Require: Josh Allen
Josh Allen’s 2021 debut was more than a disappointment. While he was under pressure and given little help throughout the game, his accuracy was scattershot, and his ball security was concerning. Allen was paid like a franchise QB before the season started, and he deserved to be. But his performance against the Steelers was uninspired, and when the Bills defense only gives up 16 points (with one 1 TD on the blocked punt) it should be expected that Allen can lead the Bills to score more than that, even against a tough Steelers defense.
Irked: Offensive Line
The offensive line: The Steelers’ defensive line kept the Bills’ offense stalled all game long. Dawkins, Morse, and Feliciano were all called for holding, with Dawkins being called 3 times. Coming into the season, the Bills did very little to try and help or revamp their OL, particularly the interior. They kept Feliciano, restructured Morse, and hoped that Cody Ford would continue to progress.
Unfortunately, the Bills were overwhelmed by Cam Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and TJ Watt. The pressure was unrelenting, and the Bills did little to adjust, not keeping TEs or RBs in to help protect. It’s a concern moving forward, especially given that the AFC East is rife with good defensive linemen, and creative defensive play callers.
This loss is certainly disappointing, especially with a home opening loss to a tough Steelers team. However, it’s one game out of a long 17 game season, and the Bills are a good roster with a good QB, and head coach. They’ve had tough losses before and bounced back, fans should expect them to do so again as they face the Dolphins next week.