By Matthew Marczi
Although the Pittsburgh Steelers never really seemed to be in jeopardy of losing to the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, there were a number of self-inflicted wounds committed by the Steelers that helped keep the Buffalo competitive, or at least not embarrass themselves further.
There were, for example, the two pass interference calls, the first one on William Gay. After the Bills intercepted Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ first possession, they began their first series on Pittsburgh’s own 29. On first and second down, Gay stopped the ball carrier after gains of three yards each.
Then on third down, he needlessly ran through receiver Marquise Goodwin on a ball that, even if on target, would not have been enough for a first down. Though Gay played a very good game, the free set of downs here allowed the Bills to drive down near the goal line before sputtering out in the early stages of the game.
Cortez Allen was guilty of a similar play in the second quarter, this time against Stevie Johnson. On second and six at his own 47, E.J. Manuel threw wide of his receiver on a ball that would not have been caught regardless of what Allen had done. Yet it was still within that questionable range wherein a flag must still be thrown. Fortunately, Manuel went on to throw three straight incompletions, and the Bills were forced to punt anyway.
Though the game by then had already been decided, the Steelers defense did help the Bills get into the end zone at the end of the game. By doing so, Buffalo was able to at least make the final score look a bit more presentable at 23-10—even if the last seven points were scored because the receiver who caught the touchdown jumped offsides.
After just barely giving up a third-down conversion on a reception into the red zone, it looked as though the safeties were about to drop Fred Jackson for a loss, with both Ryan Clark and Will Allen charging in to meet him. The only problem is that, with a little help from a former Steelers guard, the two safeties ended up colliding and taking each other out, allowing Jackson to get to the edge for an 11-yard run.
On the very next play, it appeared as though the Steelers recovered a Manuel fumble after a Jason Worilds hit. As it turned out, the ruling on the field was overturned. It should have just been an incomplete pass. Because Steve McLendon was flagged for unnecessary roughness while blocking on the fumble return that wasn’t actually a fumble, however, the Bills regained a down and were awarded half the distance to the goal.
Do these things happen in just about every game? Surely they do. It just seemed to stick out more in this one. Bad teams take bad penalties such as these. So do good teams on occasion, but they overcome them. The Steelers were a good team this week, at least defensively, but if that is to continue, they had better not continue to force themselves to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds.