The Steelers defense was as good as advertised in Sunday’s 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills, getting to Josh Allen for three sacks and forcing two turnovers, including a blocked punt by S Miles Killebrew that was recovered by LB Ulysees Gilbert III for a touchdown.
The Bills started the game with great field position at the Pittsburgh 24 thanks to a 75-yard kickoff return by WR Isaiah McKenzie. The Steelers defense held though, and Buffalo had to settle for a 37-yard Tyler Bass field goal to give them an early 3-0 lead.
The Steelers moved the ball to their own 47 largely thanks to a 14-yard catch and run by WR Diontae Johnson, but the drive ended after QB Ben Roethlisberger missed Johnson high on third-and-four.
The Pittsburgh defense just missed a sack on multiple plays during the next Bills possession which resulted in holding penalties against Bills’ LT Dion Dawkins and C Mitch Morse. OLB Melvin Ingram had a couple nice bull rushes, as did DE Cameron Heyward on third-and-14 to force an incompletion and another holding penalty (which was declined.)
The Steelers went three-and-out on their second possession of the game, with a strip sack of Roethlisberger on third-and-four followed by a penalty on WR Chase Claypool moving the Steelers back to their own 14-yard line for the punt.
The Bills followed with a three-and-out of their own. CB Cameron Sutton had an impressive pass breakup on third-and-one to force the Bills to punt.
After the Steelers’ drive stalled out at their 38 at the start of the second quarter, the Steelers defense got another stop as the Bills drive ended at the Steelers 43. Matt Haack’s punt pinned the Steelers at their 7-yard line, and Pittsburgh went three-and-out and a 30-yard punt by rookie punter Pressley Harvin III gave the Bills the ball at the Pittsburgh 35. OLB T.J. Watt came through for the Steelers with a strip sack of QB Josh Allen on third-and-13 and the fumble was recovered by Cam Heyward to keep the score at 3-0.
With the Pittsburgh drive starting at their own 44, Roethlisberger connected with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster for 11 yards, but Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play and the drive ended after a run for no gain and a dropped pass by RB Najee Harris. Harvin’s punt was downed at the Buffalo 9, but the Bills drove into Steelers’ territory thanks to a 37-yard completion to WR Gabriel Davis. Completions to WR Stefon Diggs and WR Cole Beasley moved the ball into the redzone, and the Bills capped the drive off with a three-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Davis to give Buffalo a 10-0 lead that they took into halftime.
The Steelers got the ball to start the second half and put together their first solid drive of the game. Najee Harris had a nine-yard run to kick things off, and after a penalty moved the ball to the Steelers 41, Roethlisberger found Diontae Johnson for six yards on first down and on third-and-four TE Eric Ebron got his first reception of the game, picking up 19 yards. On the next play, Roethlisberger connected with Claypool for a 22-yard gain. Pittsburgh got inside the ten at the Buffalo 6, but the drive ended there with a 24-yard Chris Boswell field goal to get the Steelers on the board, although they still trailed 10-3.
The Steelers defense held strong again on their next drive, forcing a turnover on downs after Buffalo went for it on 4th and 8 from the Steelers 35. The offense then put together another good drive, with Roethlisberger hitting rookie TE Pat Freiermuth for 22 yards over the middle and then a 25-yard run by Claypool on an end-around to set Pittsburgh up at the Buffalo 4. Najee Harris lost two yards on a run and Roethlisberger was incomplete to Ebron, and on third and goal Roethlisberger found Harris but he was short of the end zone, and Boswell put his second field goal of the game through the uprights from 20 yards out to cut the Buffalo lead to 10-6.
Once again, Buffalo moved the ball into Steelers’ territory but once again went for it on fourth down and couldn’t convert. CB Cameron Sutton flew into the backfield to tackle RB Matt Breida for a loss of seven, and the Steelers took over with the ball at their own 48. On third-and-seven, Roethlisberger went deep to Claypool and drew a pass interference against CB Levi Wallace to move the ball to the Buffalo 23. On the next play, Harris ran for 18 yards and then Roethlisberger hit Johnson in the corner of the endzone, and he made a fantastic catch to give the Steelers the lead. Boswell’s extra-point put Pittsburgh up 13-10 with 11:19 left to play.
The story of the game was the Steelers defense, and they came through in the biggest spot of the game. CB James Pierre had a huge pass breakup on second down, and then Cam Heyward got to Allen for a sack on third down. On fourth down, the Steelers made their biggest play of the game as S Miles Killebrew blocked Matt Haack’s punt and it was recovered by LB Ulysees Gilbert III who ran it back for a touchdown. The Steelers extended their lead to 20-10 with 9:45 to go in the game after Boswell’s made extra point.
RB Devin Singletary ran for 46 yards on the next drive and got Buffalo inside the ten after a 25-yard run. The Bills wouldn’t go much further though, as they settled for a 25-yard field goal to reduce the Steelers lead to 7 at 20-13.
With the ball back and 5:23 to play, the Steelers went to the air. On first down, Levi Wallace was flagged for holding to give the Steelers five yards, and after a three-yard Harris run, Roethlisberger and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster hooked up for a 24-yard gain to get into Buffalo territory. Facing third and eight from the Buffalo 41, Roethlisberger made a beautiful throw to Claypool to pick up 14 yards and the first down. Pittsburgh couldn’t move the ball after that, and Chris Boswell came out for a 45-yard field goal, and he put it right down the middle to give the Steelers a 23-13 lead with 2:47 to go.
Needing a score and with no timeouts, the Bills got to the Pittsburgh 24 and on first-and-20 kicked a 42-yard field goal to make it a one-score game at 23-16, but Bass’ onside kick was recovered by Smith-Schuster and the Steelers kneeled out the clock to secure the victory and open their season 1-0.