By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, banged up as it is, had a tough time dealing with the stout front seven of the Buffalo Bills, particularly the front line that includes Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
Center Fernando Velasco probably got the worst of it, often being asked to take on Dareus, who got the better of him—and others—on numerous occasions throughout the game..
The battle between Velasco and Dareus began early with the Steelers offense taking the field first, and Dareus, frankly, won most of the skirmishes. That is certainly the case on this early first quarter passing play.
Asked to block him one-on-one, Velasco quickly got duped by Dareus, who first swam over his left shoulder, and then over his right, tossing him aside as he tried to hold on.
As a result, Ben Roethlisberger was flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw the ball away. Velasco got a break on this play, however, because Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was flagged for defensive holding on Antonio Brown, giving the Steelers five yards and an automatic first down.
Later, midway through the third quarter, Dareus beat Velasco again in pass protection. He got his hand on Velasco’s shoulder and prevented the center from getting inside his chest, and thus was able to get to the outside and run past him to force another pressure, and yet another throwaway, this time with no penalty.
Near the end of the third quarter, Velasco was tasked with keeping Williams out of the backfield on a screen pass to Heath Miller. He was not asked to stop him, but merely to slow him down, as screens are designed to do.
He let Williams by too easily though, pressuring Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball more quickly than he intended. Miller was still engaged with Mario Williams and not ready to receive the ball either. Combined with the rushed throw and ill-prepared receiver, the play was doomed to fail.
Now, Velasco was not beaten on every snap. In fact, he threw some nice blocks throughout the game. But he was clearly overmatched in this game by the Bills’ defensive tackles, and it limited the offense both on the ground and, as shown above, in the air. Though he didn’t give up any sacks, Velasco allowed two other pressures in addition to the ones above for his worst game yet as a Steeler.