The Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Buffalo Bills was a historic game and extremely fun to watch. With the Steelers winning streak at four games, let’s recap the top 10 most important plays of the game.
10 – The Steelers’ offense found itself in the red zone with 12:00 minutes left in the first half. Le’Veon Bell took the handoff, cutback to a lane created by B.J. Finney’s crushing block on Marcell Dareus and followed fullback Roosevelt Nix into the end zone pretty much untouched. It was Bell’s second score of the game, and signaled that the Bills defensive front was in for a long day.
9 – After the Steelers went up 21-7 in the 3rd quarter the Bills’ offense was looking for answers. The Steelers pressured Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor for most of the game, so their offense looked to their biggest playmaker, LeSean McCoy, to provide a spark. He caught a pass in the flat on 2nd and 15 and managed to gain 11 yards. But the importance of this play lies in that there were eight Steelers defenders within arm’s length of McCoy when he was tackled. That type of pursuit and gang tackling is a major improvement over how the defense played in Miami or Philadelphia earlier in the season.
8 – On 3rd and 4 with four minutes left in the 3rd quarter Taylor targeted his tight end, Charles Clay, to get a first down. Ross Cockrell made an excellent read by watching Taylor’s eyes. He broke off the receiver he was covering and kept Clay from making the reception. Not only did it force the Bills to punt but it’s another sign that the defense is improving weekly.
7 – On the Steelers’ first drive the offense was facing a 3rd and 10 and threw a screen pass to Bell, he seemed to be stopped five yards short of a first down, but eluded the Bills’ defense and ripped of a 32-yard reception. Not only was it an important conversion on 3rd and long, but it was a big play and foreshadowed the issues the Bills would have with Bell all game long.
6 – With about eight minutes left in the first quarter the Steelers offense got their second possession of the game. On 2nd and 8 Ben Roethlisberger found cornerback Ronald Darby in man coverage on Antonio Brown. Even with decent coverage by Darby, Brown came down with the ball; a 40-yard reception, the offense’s longest play of the day. Not to mention it set up Bell’s first touchdown of the day.
5 – Two plays later Roethlisberger targeted Brown again with Darby in coverage. This pass was 29 yards and was in the end zone, but this time Darby received safety help from Corey White, who dropped the interception. Had White made the play he would have ended a drive that eventually turned into seven points for the Steelers.
4 – With about 9 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter it was evident that the Steelers were going to attempt to beat the Bills by running the ball. The offense had brought in Chris Hubbard, a backup tackle, to play tight end, and was using Nix to bulldoze holes in the Bills defense. Even with 9 Bills defenders in the box Bell took the handoff and followed Nix on another run to the left side. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva opened a hole allowing Nix to work to the second level and block a linebacker. Bell just patiently waited for the hole to open and burst through it for a gain of 24 yards. He finished the run hard too by stiff arming Darby to the ground. This run kept the Steelers’ drive going when it looked like penalties were going to derail the offenses progress.
3 – On the first play of the 2nd quarter the Steelers’ offense faced a 4th and 1. Roethlisberger saw the Bills’ defense come out in a run stopping formation decided to call an audible. He completed a pass in the flat to David Johnson, who rumbled for 15 yards and kept the Steelers’ drive alive. This is the type of freedom Ben has in the offense that separates him from a lot of his peers.
2 – After Roethlisberger threw his third interception of the day in the end zone the Bills offense took the field at the start of the 4th quarter. On their first play of the drive Taylor tried to attack the Steelers defense down field. Artie Burns sunk into his zone and made an easy interception on Taylor’s pass, giving the ball back to the Steelers’ offense who continued to use Bell to implement their running game.
1 – This isn’t one play, but it was one of the biggest differences in the game; all the sacks the defense accrued. These would have taken up half of the plays by themselves: Stephon Tuitt and L.T. Walton did admirable jobs of collapsing the pocket and not letting Taylor get comfortable. Also, Sean Davis’ ability to get pressure on safety blitz’s (I don’t think the Bills blocked him once when he rushed the quarterback) was extremely effective throughout the game. Bud Dupree flashed his speed off the edge in pass rushing situations, which is a sign that he’s returning to form at the perfect time for a playoff run and Ryan Shazier chased down a scrambling Taylor for a sack of his own. For one game the pass rush looked like last year’s defensive group; able to get sacks without one dominant pass rusher.