The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to break even in their past eight games, matching a four-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak, and in order to do so, they need to leave Buffalo today with a victory over the Bills and their top-ranked rushing offense, bolstered by Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, who leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards.
So yeah, a pretty good place to start with in a list of things to watch for in this game is Tyrod Taylor and his effectiveness, both as a runner and as a deception, in his contributions to the running game, as he contributes about 40 yards or so with his legs every week.
Historically, offenses that boast a running quarterback generally have a more effective running game, not just because the quarterback adds to the running game, but because his threat as a runner aids the running backs in dividing defenders’ attention. The Steelers’ front seven needs to stay disciplined against the option today.
On the bright side, the Steelers did have relative success against LeSean McCoy back in 2012. In that game, he rushed for 53 yards on 16 attempts, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He also caught four passes for 27 yards, but one of them did score a touchdown, albeit in a losing effort.
Of course, that was several years ago, and McCoy is a different runner with Taylor in the lineup and behind this offensive line. He is on the cusp of a 1000-yard rushing season and is doing so averaging a ridiculous 5.5 yards per carry. And he is coming off one the his best games of the season with 130 rushing yards on 17 carries in addition to 61 receiving yards on seven receptions for 191 total yards.
And the Steelers will be playing without two of their top three defensive linemen, since Javon Hargrave is doubtful to play with a concussion. If he is not even cleared from the concussion protocol by Sunday, then there is absolutely zero chance that he plays, but even if he does, he is very unlikely to play.
I think one player who is going to have an important role in his game, and potentially have a big game, is rookie safety Sean Davis, who is going to be responsible for helping to assure that the Bills can’t get anything deep in the passing game. But more importantly, he is going to have to be solid on his run fills the way he was last year. I would also expect that he will be sent on a few blitzes in this game as well, and he may see his first sack here.
Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons are going to have to step up in this game, especially in light of Hargrave’s absence, but they will be primarily responsible for controlling Taylor and McCoy. In the meantime, the Steelers’ running game is hoping to not see Kyle Williams. If the Steelers can continue to get the running game going, and can control the ball, then they should be in good shape.