The Buffalo Bills enter today’s game with the most efficient running game in the league, leading all teams in total rushing yards, yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns. But the Pittsburgh Steelers would welcome the opportunity to try to make their offense one-dimensional. Usually, they want to try to make teams pass the ball, but the situation for today calls for staying on the ground.
The weather conditions will not be favorable to throwing the ball very far down the field, which applies to both sides, but more than that, the Bills’ top two wide receivers are playing at comfortably less than 100 percent capacity for a passing offense that is already at the bottom of the league.
Robert Woods has not played in a few weeks, but as recently as Week Nine, he had a big game for the Bills, catching 10 passes for 162 yards. That was the only game this year in which he caught more than 51 yards in a game, however.
Meanwhile, former first-round draft pick Sammy Watkins has missed most of the season since the second game, but he has been back on the field for two weeks now. He caught three passes in each of those games, the first game for 80 yards, but last week for just 38 yards.
Woods is the only player on the roster with at least 40 receptions, and he has 42. He is also the only player with at least 400 receiving yards on the season—with 492 yards. Only one player has more than one touchdown receptions of their 11 totals.
If the Bills are going to be limited to trying to run the ball except in obvious passing situations, then that will make the Steelers defense’s job a bit easier in knowing that they can simply play to stop the run, which they have been able to do with general effectiveness in recent weeks.
With Watkins still dealing with recurring foot issues and Woods nursing a sore knee injury, one would have to imagine that they will be somewhat limited in their effectiveness, particularly as vertical threats, especially on a day on which it may be difficult to get much traction on the playing surface.
The field may also hinder their speedster, Marquise Goodwin, who leads the Bills with three receiving touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns have come from a distance of at least 60 yards away. But those are the only two explosive plays that he has had on the year.
The reality is that their most dangerous receiving target in this game may well be LeSean McCoy, who does have 35 receptions on the season. With Ryan Shazier potentially having his attention divided between McCoy and the running-threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the pair will be difficult to account for.
Pittsburgh’s red-zone defense will be crucial in this game, as 14 of the Bills’ 23 rushing touchdowns have come from within 10 yards. If they can hold up in the run game when it matters most, then they should be able to take this road game with relative ease.