Instant Analysis: Bills fail to answer in loss to Steelers

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Buffalo’s fans came out in full force to support the Bills in their first home fully attended home game since the 2019 season. Unfortunately, their energy couldn’t carry the Bills to a victory, as Buffalo fell to Pittsburgh 23-16 in 2021 Week 1 action.

The game started off fairly well for the Bills, especially for their defense. Buffalo’s defensive unit only allowed 54 yards to Pittsburgh in the first half. Buffalo limited the Steelers to only seven rushing yards during the first 30 minutes. Mario Addison forced a fumble, sacking Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Bills defense kept the Steelers off the scoreboard in the first half.

Buffalo’s offense struggled a little bit in the first half, but they still moved the ball methodically. Gabriel Davis scored the Bills first touchdown of the season, a three-yard reception from quarterback Josh Allen.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

However, this would be the high watermark for the day for Buffalo. Pittsburgh ground out a second half that keep them in the game and ultimately, pushed them into victory territory. Buffalo, for all of the talk of their explosive offense and Super Bowl aspirations, could not handle the Steelers in front of the crowd and Highmark Stadium.

Pittsburgh scored 20 unanswered points in a multitude of different ways. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell made two field goals in the third quarter to pull the Steelers within four points.

In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh wide receiver Dionte Johnson catch a deflected pass in the corner of the end zone to give the Steelers their first lead on the afternoon.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

On the subsequent drive, the Steelers won the special teams battle, blocking a punt, scooping it up, and scoring what would be the score that would be the difference in the game.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The game highlighted several concerns for the Bills. Ahead of the game, everything seemed to line up for a wildly exciting opening to a campaign where the Super Bowl is within Buffalo’s reach.

First, the Bills offense, which was nothing short of dynamic and explosive last season, fell quite late. Buffalo could only muster 10 points in the first half. Pittsburgh created the game plan for squaring off against the Bills offense, dropping their secondary deep and daring the Bills to take anything underneath. The Steelers were quick to rally to the ball, so even the intermediate passes were largely mediocre.

Second, self-inflicted mistakes haunted the Bills. The offensive line was overmatched multiple times today. Tackle Dion Dawkins was flagged three times for holding. Mitch Morse and Daryl Williams were also called for holding.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace were flagged for pass interference calls, each that helped put Pittsburgh in a better position offensively. It allowed Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense to methodically push down the field.

Third, the coaching decisions of McDermott and company were worrisome. Buffalo’s offense failed on two fourth down conversion attempts. It’s not as much at the Pittsburgh defense stopped the Bills; it’s more of how wildly unsuccessful the play calls turned out. The offense still relied on quarterback-designed rushes, which were largely snuffed out by the Steelers. Devin Singletary had a nice afternoon but was largely ignored until late in the game. In the previous matchups with the Steelers, Sean McDermott clearly outcoached Tomlin. Today, it was a reversal, especially in the second half.

Finally, for all of the attention to detail, the ultimate play that ended up being the difference in the game was a blocked punt by Pittsburgh. While the kick return coverage of the Bills was a positive aspect for the team on the afternoon, the failure to block on the punt attempt was a huge flaw.

The game started with a blast, as Isaiah McKenzie took the opening kick 75 yards into Pittsburgh territory. However, it was three and out on the drive, and the Bills could only manage a field goal, even with stellar field position. Squandering that opportunity only acted as a harbinger of the struggles the Bills offense would have for the remainder of the game.

Buffalo travels to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins next Sunday. It’s obvious early to push the panic button, but the Bills will need to return to the drawing board if they think an uninspiring effort like this will get it done next well.