The regular season is here, and that means Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s pre-game opponent scouting reports are back, as well. Ordinarily, he makes every team they face sound like a Super Bowl contender, but the reality is he didn’t have to do much of a sales pitch for the Buffalo Bills and some of their stars, such as wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
“Stefon Diggs was a significant acquisition for those guys a year ago, and really paid dividends for them”, Tomlin said yesterday. “I know he was a big-time problem for us over the second half of that game a year ago up in Buffalo. He’s one of the best in the business regardless of how you cut it or shape it. He’s a playmaker, down the field, underneath, possession downs, red zone, he is a big-time component of what they do”.
A former fifth-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota traded Diggs to the Bills last season, and the impact was instant. He led the NFL with 127 receptions and 1,535 receiving yards, also finding the end zone eight times. He added another 20 receptions for 341 yards and two touchdowns in three postseason games before the Bills fell to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
One of their biggest games of the season, which ended with them going 13-3, was the Week 14 game against the Steelers, which they won, 26-15. It was just 9-7 at halftime before a pair of third-quarter touchdowns flipped the game, and it was ignited by Diggs’ play, who had just one catch for eight yards prior to the Bills’ final possession of the first half.
Their first drive of the second half saw the veteran receiver haul in all four of his targets, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown. One key play was a six-yard reception that kept the drive alive on 3rd and 2. Taking over on a short field on their next possession, Buffalo quickly found the red zone with two Diggs receptions of 22 and 19 yards.
This was the first game that Joe Haden missed last season, and which Cameron Sutton started on the left side. He drew Diggs frequently in that game, especially in the second half, and at least for that three-drive stretch at the end of the first half and the start of the second—which accounted for 17 points—they didn’t have an answer for him.
He finished the game with 10 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown, but his impact felt even bigger than that, somehow. And one imagines they will have just as difficult a time stopping him again this time around, as nearly every team did last year.