Steelers Vs Bills First Half Notes And Observations

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a 1-3 preseason record after dropping their fourth game to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday by the score of 43-19. Below are my notes and observations upon reviewing the first half of the game.

  • The Steelers got a short return out of Dri Archer on the opening kickoff when Roosevelt Nix missed his block on the first man in. L.T. Walton was a notable as part of the two-man wedge, getting off a good block of his own.
  • In a rare moment this preseason, right tackle Marcus Gilbert was beaten handily on the opening snap against Mario Williams, who quickly won inside to make the tackle for no gain on DeAngelo Williams.
  • The man replacing Maurkice Pouncey, Cody Wallace, had a rough start in pass protection. He was bested by Corbin Bryant on his first two reps, first having his hands knocked down and driven back, and then was beaten for a sack on third and 10 on the next play.
  • Despite kicking from deep in his own end, Brad Wing only managed to get 53 yards on his first punt, with insufficient hang time to allow his coverage to chase down the ball, which resulted in a 20-yard return.
  • The newly signed L.J. Fort, who has previously earned his keep elsewhere as a special teams player, was the first man down the field on the punt, but he missed the tackle.
  • Needless to a say, a number of things went wrong on the Steelers’ opening defensive play, but the main catalyst was Walton being turned out of the hole, which contributed to Vince Williams misplaying his gap. Ryan Shazier’s inability to release from the block of the pulling lineman and William Gay being put on his back assured Fred Jackson of a clear path up the sideline, but credit to Will Allen for tracking him down and knocking his foot out of bounds.
  • The Steelers turned to their 4-6 alignment at the goal line, plugging in Daniel McCullers as a fourth lineman and bringing in Sean Spence and Terence Garvin as extra linebackers, with Allen the lone defensive back. Jackson was able to sail over the pile of bodies on his second try for the first score of the game. Spence seemed late filling that lane.
  • Perhaps worth noting that Anthony Chickillo remains on the extra point blocking unit, among other special teams units.
  • As I wrote about yesterday, DeAngelo Williams certainly already looks ready to start the season, ripping off an impressive 14-yard run with a bit of burst, which was a follow-up to a 10-yard reception after bouncing off of a defender halfway through. He completed the drive with a one-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion run, on which he slipped and got up and still got into the end zone.
  • Interspersed in between all of that was a Martavis Bryant pass interference penalty. You’ve got to think he should command some of those this year now that he’s on the radar.
  • Markus Wheaton also had a nice catch over the middle down to the one, but you want to see him get into the end zone on that play.
  • Cortez Allen missed a tackle on the first target in his coverage, resulting in a 16-yard gain.
  • Both Williams and Shamarko Thomas have since claimed responsibility on the Charles Clay 67-yard touchdown pass. Neither were wrong. This is part of the growing pains of incorporating new concepts with new players.
  • To his credit, Bud Dupree made the stop on the Bills’ two-point conversion attempt. He was also the one to clean up on Allen’s missed tackle earlier in that drive.
  • The newly signed Michael Vick still has a pretty big arm. His first play was a flick of the wrist deep throw to Bryant for a 63-yard gain, with a healthy chunk of that in the air.
  • The drive was on the verge of stalling after a four-yard loss on the next play, but another pass interference drawn by Bryant set up first and goal.
  • Vick was forced to throw it away on second and goal, and then missed his target on third and goal. Had the pass been accurate, there may have been another pass interference drawn by Bryant, but the ball was uncatchable.
  • The jammers gave Archer lots of room to work after the defense forced the Bills to punt, but he muffed it. He was lucky to get a friendly bounce right back up to his chest, and still got off a 15-yard return.
  • Vick’s second drive looked to be getting off to a slow start, but on third down, he was able to find Bryant as the quarterback scrambled to his left under pressure, and the receiver took off running for a long gain.
  • Wheaton was caught blocking down the field on that last play. Good to see.
  • Rookie guard Colling Rahrig lost off the snap to Corbin Bryant, with the defensive tackle getting the stop. It’s a play like this that is useful to point out how the Steelers approached this game. Rahrig is a player who didn’t even see time in some games this preseason. He was just cut two days ago. And he was playing against a starter at the end of the first quarter.
  • I mean, Chris Hubbard was playing across from Kyle Williams. It would take really dire circumstances for that to happen in a meaningful game.
  • This could happen in the first two games of the season, however. Josh Harris was slow to get to the free rusher in pass protection, allowing a sack off the right edge, stalling what was another promising drive.
  • McCullers plugged in at nose tackle, nearly making a run stop for a loss on first down, but he couldn’t get to the back quick enough.
  • Ethan Hemer got a batted pass at the line that should have been intercepted by Brandon Boykin. The Bills proceeded to convert on third and long.
  • As one of the more inexperienced starters, Shazier continued to take reps throughout the game. He came flying in through the line to throw the running back down for a loss on one play on the drive being described above.
  • Walton was able to tip a pass at the line on the following play, but it was still caught to set up third and short.
  • After a false start, Matt Cassel scrambled on third down. Spence did an excellent job to stick tackle the scrambling quarterback in the air to hold him up short of the first down. The Bills settled for a 53-yard field goal attempt that went side.
  • Third-stringer Landry Jones managed to look good early on, converting on third and eight after two sour running plays for 16 yards, then hooking up with Bryant for a 39-yard catch and run that reached its conclusion in the end zone. He then completed a short pass to Sammie Coates for the two-point conversion.
  • Veteran Cam Thomas only got about 15 snaps or so, but he played well. He is making this team.
  • As the Bills continued to drive toward the end of the first half, Joe Kruger missed a tackle up the middle near the goal line and showed visible frustration with himself after the play. He knew he was a long shot and needed to make that sort of play. He did not make the first cut.
  • The Bills jumped up ahead with a late touchdown after two carries against the Steelers’ goal line personnel, running through Walton’s gap.
  • Jones’ first throw on his second drive was off target to Tyler Murphy. Harris dropped his second pass. After a short run on third down, the Bills called a timeout to get the ball back after a short punt from Wing and a good return set them up at the Steelers’ 42. They ended the half with a field goal and a 23-19 lead.
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