The Steelers are looking to rebound after suffering their first loss of the season to the Washington Football Team on Monday night. To do so, they will have to beat the red hot Buffalo Bills, in Buffalo, in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football. Here are the keys for the banged up Steelers to emerge victorious.
- Force Turnovers
Pittsburgh defense will be missing their signal caller on defense as Robert Spillane is out with a knee injury. In addition, Spilane’s linebacking partner Vince Williams was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list, which leaves the inside linebacking corps extremely thin. On top of that, the Steelers are missing their top cornerback in Joe Haden.
For the Steelers to have a chance to win this game they will need to take the football away from the Bills often. The defense is stretched thin with injuries and the longer they are out on the field the more of an opportunity Bills quarterback Josh Allen has a chance to dice them up.
If Pittsburgh can create turnovers, they can let Ben Roethlisberger and company hold the ball and hopefully control the game.
- Throw the Ball Downfield
In recent weeks, Pittsburgh’s offense has become extremely predictable. The Bills defense, while not as good as last year, is still dangerous. If they key in on what the Steelers are doing, this game could get ugly.
All season Pittsburgh has been throwing short passes to keep Roethlisberger upright. Sunday, they will need to push the ball down the field to keep the Buffalo secondary honest. If the Steelers can successfully throw the football deep, it will open up the underneath stuff for the Steelers playmakers to take advantage of.
- Run the Football
Pittsburgh’s run game has been putrid of late to put it nicely. However, this weekend their starting running back James Conner returns after he missed two games after being placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Last season, when these two teams played Conner had a few promising runs, but the Steelers offense decided to stop putting the ball in his hands. This week, offensive coordinator Randy Fichner must make a concerted effort to feed Conner the rock. As touched on earlier in the season, when Conner gets 16+ carries the Steelers are undefeated. If they want to get back on the right track, they need to let their bell cow eat.
- Catch the Football
Something that should be routine for wide receivers has turned into a problem this season for Pittsburgh wide outs. So far this season, Steelers receivers have dropped the most passes in the NFL with 33. These past two weeks have been extremely bad with over 10 combined drops against the Ravens and Washington Football Team. The Steelers will not win this game against the Bills if they continue to leave points on the table and shorten drives because of drops.
- Win the Special Teams Battle
With the Steelers very undermanned, they will need a lot to go their way if they want to walk out of Buffalo with a victory. One way to do that is by winning the special teams battle. Kick and punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud needs to put his recent struggles behind him and break a return for either a touchdown or at least flip field position. In addition, Pittsburgh gets back their starting kicker Chris Boswell. He needs to be able to put his injury behind him and continue his good season. Last season, punter Jordan Berry cost the Steelers the game with poor punts. He needs to be able to pin Buffalo back deep this time around and help the defense out.
If Pittsburgh can follow these keys to the game they should be able to come out of Buffalo with a victory and clinch a spot in the playoffs. It will be difficult, but even with all the injuries, this Pittsburgh team is still talented. They just need to put it all together and unleash this offense.
My prediction: Buffalo wins a tight one.