The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fifth game of the 2022 regular season on the road on Sunday afternoon against the Buffalo Bills and they’ll enter that contest listed as a huge underdog to boot. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do on the road on Sunday to come away with their second win of the 2022 season.
Be Possessed – If the Steelers want a shot at beating the Bills on Sunday the offense will likely need to have their largest time of possession this season as that will help keep Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen off the field. So far this season, the Steelers have averaged just 25:35 of possession time on offense and that’s the second lowest in the NFL. While I’m very much aware of the fact that the Miami Dolphins beat the Bills a few weeks ago by only possessing the football a total of 19:20 in that contest, I just can’t see the Steelers being able to pull something like that off and especially the way their defense has played the last few weeks. The Steelers offense also has yet to prove that they can strike quickly so if rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is to lead the unit to a few touchdown drives on Sunday, they will likely be of the multiple play variety and thus eat up game clock in the process.
No Biggs From Diggs – While the Bills will certainly have wide receiver Stefon Diggs on Sunday against the Steelers, they won’t have wide receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end Dawson Knox as both will miss the game with injuries. Additionally, wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie entered the weekend listed as questionable as he attempts to work himself back from a concussion. In short, the Steelers defense needs to focus on Diggs on Sunday as they just can’t let him be the player that beats them in the passing game. Instead, the defense must force Allen to go elsewhere with the football in the game. Against the Bills last season, the Steelers held Diggs to just 69 yards receiving. It took him nine catches on 13 targets to hit that mark and he did not score to boot. If the Steelers defense can hold Diggs to similar stat-line on Sunday in Buffalo, it just might go a long way in helping the team pull off another road upset.
Let The Backs Catch On – With Pickett now under center for the Steelers, it will be interesting to see if he uses the running backs out of the backfield some in the passing game, or least more than the offense has utilized them in that phase through four games played. Entering Week 5, running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have combined to catch just 13 passes for 59 yards on 15 total targets and as you can probably imagine, that ranks in the bottom quarter of the league. Allowing either one of those two running backs to get the football out in space, even if it is a short check-down completion, might pay a dividend or two in the form of an explosive play, something the offense has had problems producing through four games.
Limit Allen’s Feetball – While the Bills running backs have produced just 271 yards on the ground through four games, Allen has managed to use his legs to gain 183 yards to lead the team. He’s a big boy and not afraid to take off with the football on any play. Because of that, the Steelers defense needs to do a great job on Sunday of either containing Allen inside the pocket on drop backs or getting him down to the ground quickly on all designed quarterback runs. That’s a tall task and especially for a Steelers defense that has already given up 79 yards on 18 runs by opposing quarterbacks through four games played. If the defense can keep Allen contained, along with stifling the rest of the Bills running game, they just might be able to keep the score down in Buffalo.
Flip The Special Switch – The Steelers special teams units have yet to really stick out so far this season and especially on the heels of the team spending a little extra money this past off season to sign returner Gunner Olszewski. With four games now in the books, it appears as though Olszewski is being benched in favor of Steven Sims. Hopefully that change in returners will pay off on Sunday against the Bills as the Steelers sure could use a splash play or three in this contest to help them pull off a road upset. Additionally, it’s important to remember that the Steelers blocked a Bills punt for a touchdown in the first game of the 2021 season and that play wound up playing a big part in what turned out to be a road upset. Even something as simple as a forced fumble by a coverage team could go a long way on Sunday. Football is a game that includes three phases, so we need to see the Steelers special teams units pull their weight on Sunday if Pittsburgh is going to notch their second win of 2022.