The Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 2-6, with no glimmer of hope. The Buffalo Bills are 3-6, and have their starting rookie quarterback returning to the line-up.
The Steelers were torn apart last week against the Patriots. Their secondary looks old and depleted. Their run defense, as a whole, is putrid. Pittsburgh gave up over 600 total yards of offense against New England. This isn’t your father’s Steelers, nor is it your older brother’s Steelers.
The Bills are coming off a very close game, in which they lost to the Chiefs. Buffalo will have their 2013 first round draft pick back on the field this Sunday: E.J. Manuel. The Bills haven’t had Manuel on the field since Week 5.
Match-Ups to Watch:
E.J. Manuel vs. Dick LeBeau’s defense
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a knack for rattling rookie quarterbacks. But the Steelers defense hasn’t played well during the last two weeks. The Pittsburgh defense gave two plays of 80-plus yards during those two weeks. The Steelers also gave up nearly 900 yards of total offense during their last two games. E.J. Manuel, though, hasn’t played since Week 5, as I mentioned earlier.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson vs. Steelers defense
C.J. Spillers is having a lackluster year, after averaging six yards per carry in 2012. But Spiller had a very good game against the Chiefs, last week. One rush by Spiller went for 61 yards.
The Steelers can’t stop the run anymore. In the last two weeks, both the Raiders and Patriots ran for 197 yards in their respective games versus the Steelers.
Mario Williams vs. Mike Adams/Marcus Gilbert/???
Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert both played snaps at right tackle against the Patriots, last week. Mike Adams did not practice on Friday and he is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Marcus Gilbert practiced limitedly on Friday and he is also listed as questionable.
No matter whom he faces, Mario Williams will likely manhandle that person. Williams has recorded 12 sacks this season.
Kyle Williams vs. Ramon Foster
Steelers left guard Ramon Foster will have the job of dealing with Bills defensive end Kyle Williams. Williams has five sacks and 24 quarterback hurries in the 2013 season. Nonetheless, Ramon Foster has been very good this season, as well. Foster has only given up two sacks, and he is a very good run blocker, too.
Fernando Velasco vs. Marcell Dareus
Center Fernando Velasco must contain nose tackle Marcell Dareus, in order for the Steelers to run the football effectively. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, that doesn’t seem likely. Velasco has had trouble in recent weeks.
Steelers’ Keys to Victory:
1. Steelers defense must stop Bills’ rushing attack
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are going to be tough to handle. The Steelers ought to be very afraid. Spiller looks like himself again. The Steelers keep giving up big gains; don’t be surprised if Spiller breaks off a long run.
2. Ben Roethlisberger must be almost perfect
Ben cannot, must not turn the football over, and that goes under any circumstances. The Steelers can’t give points away on offense; the defense is already doing the job well enough.
3. Steelers secondary has to look alive
At this point, it seems like Ryan Clark is ready for ESPN, now. Clark looks old, and so do his other over-30 years of age counterparts in the Steelers’ secondary. They were torn apart immensely by Tom Brady. It will be interesting to see if they bounce back against a rookie quarterback.
Bills’ Keys to Victory:
1. Playing it safe should be the name of the game for E.J. Manuel
Manuel should not try to do too much; he’s coming off an injury, and he is facing a Dick LeBeau defense. In fact, Manuel’s running backs may do all the talking.
2. Feed Spiller and Jackson
C.J. Spiller is a home run hitter, and Fred Jackson is very powerful. I have a feeling this combination will knock the Steelers right out of the ball game.
3. Pressure Ben Roethlisberger
I’m looking at you: Mario Williams. If you get to Big Ben, you have a chance at causing him make a mistake.