Bills vs. Steelers: 9 storylines to watch for this week

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It’s Wednesday so the Buffalo Bills are now turning their attention to their next opponent. This week, it so happens to be their first of 2021.

After a successful preseason run, the Bills will host the Pittsburgh Steelers to begin the year.

With that, here are nine storylines to follow as Week 1 approaches:

Will win streak continue?

Bills receiver Stefon Diggs (Gannett photo)

The Steelers hold a 16-11 all-time record against the Bills. But in the past two meetings where both sides have had their core pieces in place (mostly considering Buffalo here with their young players), the Bills are 2-0. But both games have been close. Buffalo topped Pittsburgh 17-10 and 26-15, respectively, the last two seasons. Having said that, the Bills will also have to focus on not overlooking the Steelers because of that.

Can the Bills start faster this time?

Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) hands off to Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

In terms of in game for both of those Bills wins, there's a reason they didn't ever win by a big margin. The Bills started slow in both. Perhaps that's a feather in the cap of Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for making second-half adjustments. But regardless, early against Pittsburgh, the Bills didn't score. In 2019, Buffalo won on the back of a 10-point fourth quarter and last year, the team notched 14 in the third quarter for the win.

Can the Steelers show a complementary offense?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After being the last undefeated team left in the NFL last season, the Steelers went on a downhill tumble. Part of that was facing a series of below-average teams in the first half of 2020. Pittsburgh also had their own problems. Opponents figured out that the Steelers offense was just going to dink and dunk their way down the field with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Once that was exposed... it was a nightmare stretch run. Can the Steelers find a complementary offense to keep the Bills on their toes?

Watching TJ Watt's status

Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers pass rusher TJ Watt is a game changer. He's also partially holding out and might not play against the Bills if he doesn't get a new contract this week. His status this week might be the biggest storyline leading up to Sunday.

How do Bills' 'position battles' shake out?

Levi Wallace #39 of the Buffalo Bills. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott never gives an inch. Considering that, he won't on his two ongoing position battles this week, either. In the past week or two, the coach has said the battle for playing time at the No. 2 cornerback spot between Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson continues. At guard on the offensive line, two of Cody Ford, Jon Feliciano and Ike Boettger will be out there. While some think it's likely Wallace, Feliciano and Ford... McDermott isn't going to confirm that. We'll have to wait for Sunday to get the final answer.

How will both sets of rookie show?

Bills rookie Greg Rousseau (Gannett photo)

For both the Bills and Steelers, their top-drafted rookies are being leaned upon in their first seasons. It's been noted plenty that the Bills needed to improve their pass rush. Can their top-two drafted rookies in Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham make that happen? And speaking of a complementary pieces on the Steelers offense, first-round running back Najee Harris can be the difference maker there. Both sides in the battle are going to do their best to make sure their young prospects are ready to fly out of the gate.

Any JuJu beef?

Bills cornerback Taron Johnson. Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In the last Buffalo-Pittsburgh showdown, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster game the Bills some "extra fire" before the game. He did a social media dance on the Bills logo at Highmark Stadium. After that game, Buffalo players said it motivated them. Notably, Wallace has also not been a big fan of Smith-Schuster's antics. He wouldn't even fist bump the wideout pre-game last year and told Smith-Schuster to "humble" himself on his own social media account. Are the Bills using Smith-Schuster as a motivational tactic at all this week?

Will we get Star's return?

Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Many in western New York consider defensive tackle Star Lotulelei as a player that the Bills defense missed last season. Not only does Lotulelei have to go out there and prove he was that, he just has to get out there. Lotulelei has a calf injury currently. McDermott said he'll play, but it's worth monitoring throughout this week if he's limited in practices or not.

A return we know we'll get

Highmark Stadium. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

One thing we do know that is returning: Bills Mafia in the stadium on Sunday. They'll make their impact on this one.

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