For the first time since literally 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for a game that amounts to seeing how they respond to a loss. They were able to go 11-0 in their first 11 games in 2020 before running into a hot Washington Football Team team on a short week, down a handful of starters, and the end result was not great.
It even featured just their second loss in the Ben Roethlisberger era in which they blew a lead of 14 points or more, which is actually pretty impressive in and of itself, though the other loss is pretty recent as well—the Chargers game from 2018, which featured from wonky touchdowns that could have been negated by penalty, or not running into each other, from Los Angeles.
The only thing wonky about this last game was how the officials handled the end of the first half, but that’s not why the Steelers lost, and it certainly won’t do anything to help them beat the Buffalo Bills today, who may be the best team they face all throughout the regular season.
The primary concern is stopping quarterback Josh Allen, who is both a passing and running threat, though not in the Lamar Jackson sense. He does have over 80 rushes on the year, and six rushing touchdowns, but it’s his mobility and ability to scramble or extend plays that is the issue.
Being down nearly all of their linebackers won’t help, so Avery Williamson will be really under a microscope on this one, as will the Steelers’ decision to trade for him, because they absolutely need him to come through today.
On the flip side, can the offense manage to get any semblance of a run game going with running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey back? Both missed the past two games because they were on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, and the running game has left much to be desired in that time.
Either way, the focus for both teams will be on the passing game, and for the Steelers, they have talent, but warts, too. Those warts lately have been manifesting in the form of an insane number of dropped passes. On that front, we will have to see how they manage personnel throughout the game and if concern about drops influences that.
Another area of concern, back to the defensive side, is in the secondary, with Joe Haden missing due to a concussion. The Steelers were without Steven Nelson in the last game, and Haden suffered a concussion late in that one, which is causing him to be unavailable today.
Coupled with the missing bodies at linebacker, how do they address this? Cameron Sutton will of course be starting, but will they employ the dime defense with Justin Layne, as they have in the past? How much will Marcus Allen play, and where? Will Antoine Brooks get on the field the way he did against the Cincinnati Bengals?