The Steelers have a chance to go 3-1 in November and move one step closer a playoff birth as well as stay in stride with the Ravens who they face next week. The Steelers can not look past the 2-8 Bills who have won their last 2 games. The Steelers face a tough December and must make sure they put this one in the win column. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Bills in week 12.
Urbik Under Attack – The Bills will be without starting right guard Eric Wood on Sunday and that means Kraig Urbik will get his first carrer start against the Steelers who drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft and released him following training camp this season. Urbik will face a combination of Ziggy Hood, Nick Eason, Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton throughout the day as well as watching gap blitzes from various Steelers linebackers. We will know after Sunday if the Steelers made a mistake in giving up on Urbik too soon.
Watch Their Johnson – Wide receiver Steve Johnson has come out of nowhere this year for the Bills as the 3rd year receiver out of Kentucky has already totaled 52 catches for 728 yards along with 9 touchdowns. The Bills do a great job lining him up everywhere on the field and you could indeed see him try to get singled up on either Bryant McFadden or William Gay in the slot. If the Steelers try to cover Johnson using zone coverages, they better force Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to get rid of the ball quick. If not, there will be tons of room for Johnson to work underneath and despite his size, he is very shifty and hard to track down after the catch.
Where The Mendenhall Roam – The Bills are giving up an average of 163.5 yards per game. That is last in the NFL in that stat. The Bills defense is beat up and the Steelers must be able to dominate the line of scrimmage and run at will if they want to win this game. The Steelers might be without run blocking tight end Matt Spaeth and may choose to use an extra tackle as a tight end in two tight end sets. David Johnson will also see an increase in snaps as well an will be leaned on heavily in run blocking at times. Spaeth is a huge loss to the running game, but it should not stop running back Rashard Mendenhall from running wild.
For Whom The Bell Tolls – James Harrison versus Demetrius Bell will be a great battle to watch. Bell has been battling a knee problem and the Steelers hope the Bills are forced to help chip on Harrison with a running back or tight end instead of sending them out in pass patterns right away. If Harrison gets to Fitzpatrick early in the game, it could be a long day for the Bills offense. Bell is above average, but a guy that Deebo should own.
McAttack McGee Side – Bills left corner Terrence McGee is battling a knee injury and the Steelers will need to look to attack his side or his replacement should he sit. A great running game as mentioned above will force the safeties up and perhaps allow receivers Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders a couple of chances to run past the left side corner for a deep one.
Ground Fred – Bills running back Fred Jackson is a very dangerous multi-talented back. Where he can hurt the Steelers the most is out of the backfield on screens. Teams know they likely will not be able to run on the Steelers, but teams can use their backs on screens like the Saints did earlier in the year and be patient underneath. Linebackers James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley need to drop Jackson on first contact as he can turn a dump off pass into a 50 yard gain in a hurry.
Up Tempo Early – Since the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from suspension, the Steelers offense has not clicked on all cylinders to open up first quarters of games. An up tempo muddle huddle might be just what the offense needs to get the rhythm going right from the get go.
Steelers Bills Game Prediction – There is absolutely no reason to think that the Steelers will not win this game. They match up great in every area of the game and as long as they do not turn the ball over or lose several to injury, they should roll here. There is always a chance they could be looking past this game, but I think they learned late last year that no game is sure thing. Mendenhall should run all day and the Steelers win another one by 10 plus.
Final Score: Steelers 31 Bills 19