The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to secure their fourth victory in as many games, and in order to do so, they will have to come out of Buffalo today with a win. And they will be attempting to accomplish that down a couple of starters, as left guard Ramon Foster and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave are among the team’s inactives for today. Aiding the Steelers a bit, though, is the fact that the Bills have defensive tackle Kyle Williams taking a seat for the afternoon.
Pittsburgh will be counting on first-year guard B.J. Finney to fill in for Foster. Finney came in cold off the bench for Foster against the Eagles earlier this year and handled himself well. He started the following game in Kansas City and did very well, so there is at least some optimism about the offensive side. With the Steelers already down a starter along the defensive side, however, Hargrave’s loss looms larger. Ricardo Mathews and Daniel McCullers will bear a heavy burden today looking to stop Buffalo’s rushing offense.
The Bills won the coin toss but deferred. Fitzgerald Toussaint fielded the kick at the one and returned it to the 22. Antonio Brown started in the backfield and got the pass for a three-yard gain. A quick pass to Le’Veon Bell over the middle resulted in a first down. Ben Roethlisberger and Cobi Hamilton could not connect on the following play. On second and 10, he overthrew Ladarius Green to set up a third and 10. Roethlisberger checked down to Bell and he looked to be bottled up after about five yards, but bounced outside for a big gain deep into Bills territory.
Another short pass to Brown this time actually lost two yards. Prior to the second and 12 play, the offense was forced to burn a timeout. Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone, but the defense came back to force a punt. Brown returned the punt to the 29. The drive started with a sack split between Stephon Tuitt and Sean Davis.
Bell got just his second carry of the game for two yards. Roethlisberger looked deep down the field on second down, beating Ronald Darby in close coverage down the field for a bit gain of 40 yards. Now from the 29, Roethlisberger looked to go back to Brown, but the pass was errant. On second down, he looked down the seam again into the end zone for Brown, but he was double covered and the Bills nearly intercepted it. On third down, he finally connected with Green, who fought for extra yardage and slipped through a tackle for a first down and more.
From the 11, Bell took the ball up the middle and was able to pick up about eight yards. Roethlisberger struggled to find anybody open and looked for Brown in the left corner of the end zone, incomplete. On third and two, they went back to the ground, with Bell getting the carry, and he managed to back his way in for the score, putting the Steelers up 7-0 early after Chris Boswell‘s extra point.
Roosevelt Nix made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff at the 14-yard line. The defense took the field for the second time. McCoy was stopped after a one-yard gain. On second down, Bud Dupree notched his first sack of the season. William Gay intercepted Tyrod Taylor for a touchdown, but there was a defensive holding penalty on the play before the interception. Instead of a defensive touchdown, it’s an automatic first down.
A short gain by Reggie Bush was negated by a hold. L.T. Walton and Ryan Shazier made the tackle in the backfield. Davis sacked Taylor at the two-yard line on second down. McCoy just got some breathing room for the punt. A decent return from Brown on the punt was negated by a hold on Sammie Coates.
Roethlisberger connected with Green on first down for about six or seven. A Bills linebacker stayed down after the play. In the meantime, Mike Mitchell was announced as questionable to return with a knee injury, so Robert Golden will be replacing him in the meantime unless he is able to return.
Bell wriggled his way up the middle for about five yards for a first down. On the draw carry on the following play, he was limited to about four yards. A short pass to Eli Rogers for five yards ended the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, on third and one from the Buffalo 39, Bell was stalled just shy of the first-down marker, but the offense lined up in a hurry on fourth down. The Steelers did run a play, and Roethlisberger checked to David Johnson in the right flat for a first down and more, picking up 15.
From the 25, Roethlisberger fired a bullet down the seam for Jesse James, but incomplete. A short pass to Rogers resulted in a gain of eight or nine after the receiver made one tackler miss. On third and short, Brown came out of the backfield and Roethlisberger found him for the easy completion, setting up first and goal.
From the seven, Roethlisberger handed off to Bell, with Nix as the lead blocking, and the fourth-year back got into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the day, his first game with multiple rushing touchdowns since 2014, and I believe only the fourth of his career.
Following a touchback, McCoy was able to gain nine yards off right guard on the first play from scrimmage. On second and one, he was just barely able to keep his forward momentum through a tackle to gain the Bills’ first first down of the game.
From the 36, Taylor found McCoy over the middle for eight yards. On second and two, it was Shazier that ultimately brought Taylor down in the backfield after he looked to run. On third and three, Taylor got the pass out quick to Sammy Watkins at midfield. Mike Tomlin quickly threw the challenge flag to argue that the pass was not completed. Tomlin won his challenge, and as a result, the Bills elected to punt due to the drop. The punt went out of bounds at the 25.
On first down, Bell was hit at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Roethlisberger had all day to throw on second down, but he still managed to throw an interception to Stephon Gilmore, who returned it 31 yards to set up a first and goal. From the seven, Shazier took McCoy down near the line of scrimmage after taking on the fullback. Taylor was flushed out of the pocket on second down and fired an incompletion in the shallow of the end zone, but there was a hold that the Steelers accepted. From the 17, a pass over the middle got to the eight. On third and goal from that spot, Taylor found Watkins for the score as the Bills pick up seven points off of Roethlisberger’s second turnover of the game.
Toussaint fielded the kickoff at the goal line and returned it to the 25. On first down, Roethlisberger turned to Bell for a six-yard gain. He worked for about nine on the ground off the left side on second down. Off the right side, with Finney pulling, he gained 11 off the right side. Roethlisberger eventually looked downfield for Green, but the ball was out of bounds. The Bills ran a jailbreak blitz up the middle to force Roethlisberger to throw the ball into the dirt. After a false start, Roethlisberger could not connect down the field with Brown, as the Steelers were forced to punt for the first time in the game. Jordan Berry‘s punt went for a touchback for a net of 36 yards.
Mitchell returned to the lineup for the next defensive drive. McCoy gained four between the tackles with Davis on the tackle. Taylor found Watkins for a gain of 14. From the 38, Taylor to Charles Clay added seven. Shazier blew up McCoy at the line of scrimmage. On third and three, Taylor’s pass to Robert Woods was behind him just a bit, and the receiver wasn’t ready for it, resulting in an incompletion. The ensuing punt went for a touchback.
Bell slipped through several defenders off the left side for 13 yards after the touchback to hit the two-minute warning. On third down, Brown was flagged for offensive pass interference, forcing the Steelers to punt.
From the 15, a screen to McCoy went for no gain, but a hold on the Bills sent them back half the distance to the goal line. With 23 seconds to play, McCoy was stopped for a loss in the backfield. The Bills were called for a false start prior to second down, but what followed was a 22-yard run on second and 21. Another 11-yard gain to end the half will make their end-of-game stats look better, but otherwise were pointless.