Josh Allen decimates Steelers defense with four touchdowns in Buffalo's rout

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Imagine what Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount must have been thinking Sunday afternoon if they happened to be watching their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers getting eviscerated by Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

Those Hall of Famers, part of the famed Steel Curtain defense during the Steelers dynasty years in the 1970s, must have been mortified as Bills receivers ran through the secondary as if they were infected by some contagious disease the Pittsburgh defenders weren’t vaccinated against.

From Steel Curtain to melted steel as Allen lit them up for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, tied for the second-highest passing yardage total for the opening 30 minutes of an NFL game since at least 1991 on the way to a 38-3 laugher.

Here’s the scary part, which Allen wholeheartedly admitted. It could have been even more lopsided because there were several throws Allen misfired on, plays that could have resulted in more yards and points.

“Honestly I felt like I missed a few throws; I was a little ticked off for a couple of the passes I had early on in the game,” he said.

NFL NEWSLETTER: Sign up now for exclusive content sent to your inbox

'LET'S GO!': Brian Daboll's turnaround of Giants shown through signature win against Packers | Opinion

He missed Stefon Diggs wide open for a touchdown, he threw an end zone interception made by ex-Bill Levi Wallace, and Quintin Morris lost a fumble on the goal line after catching a shovel pass from Allen. In all, there were a minimum of 17 points the Bills coughed up. It was far from a clean performance, and look at the end result. It’s crazy.

Even with those glaring mistakes, the kind that could be hugely costly in a playoff game or, you know, next week in Kansas City, it was simply astounding how Allen carved up the Steelers defense.

Yes, they were missing star edge rusher T.J. Watt, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Terrell Edmunds, but the Bills were without wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder and tight end Dawson Knox and still, Allen made the Steelers look silly.

The carnage began on the third play of the game, moments after Taiwan Jones bungled the opening kickoff and forced the Bills to start their first possession of the day on their own 2-yard-line.

On third down, Gabe Davis ran right past Wallace and safety Tre Norwood, reeled in a perfect Allen bomb and took it 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest touchdown from scrimmage in the first 90 seconds of a game in NFL history and the rout was on.

“Yeah, I think (Ken Dorsey) called, ‘Run the touchdown play from 98 yards,’” coach Sean McDermott quipped. “Again, just the level of execution was very high right there. There’s a chance because of what happened on the opening kickoff that we’re punting out of our own end zone into the wind, which is not ideal, so we needed a first down at least right there and the O-line gave Josh time. And the connection between Josh and Gabe was the result that you saw.”

Here are some of my observations:

Bills' depth was on full display

We’ve been talking about this all season, how the Bills may have the deepest team top to bottom in the NFL, and given their horrendous luck with injuries this season, we are seeing that is true.

McKenzie, Crowder and Knox were out on offense, but it didn’t matter as Khalil Shakir, Isaiah Hodgins and Quintin Morris stepped up and the Bills didn’t miss a beat.

“That’s guys being ready, being true professional football players, knowing their assignments, going out and executing a game plan,” Allen said. “Guys that have been here for a while that have just kind of waited their turn and just continued to work. To see them kind of get some of that burn and pay dividends for how hard that they’ve been working.”

Shakir, Hodgins and Morris had a combined 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown by Shakir. And another backup, rookie running back James Cook, broke a 24-yard touchdown run to close the scoring.

Shakir really looks like a nice player. He made a great catch on a seam route down the middle for a 31-yard gain as Allen threaded one between three defenders. He turned a short pass into a 20-yard gain showing nice speed to the edge, and it would have gone longer had he not stepped out of bounds. And then he got open on a crossing route to catch a 24-yard TD.

Hodgins, a 2020 sixth-round pick, made his first two NFL catches playing the role of the No. 4 receiver, and Morris had a nice catch and run for a 26-yard gain. Morris did, however, lose a fumble at the goal line after catching a shovel pass.

As for Cook, that’s what the Bills are looking for from the second-round pick, that quick burst that enables him to break a run like he did for the touchdown.

Josh Allen was playing pitch and catch all day

Rare is the day when a Steelers defense looks as discombobulated as this one was. Almost every time Allen dropped back his eyes had to be bulging because of all the separation his targets were getting.

And it didn’t matter what type of route it was. Sideline routes, go routes, in cuts, dump-offs, the Steelers just couldn’t cover anyone as Allen finished 20 of 31 for a career-high 424 yards.

“Yeah, I think No. 1 was game plan,” Allen said when he was asked to explain why his guys were running free all day. “(Ken) Dorsey and the offensive staff did a great job of scheming up those plays, trusting the players out there. And then to call them in certain situations.”

Davis’ first touchdown was ridiculous for how easily he split the double coverage, and then the speed he showed to turn that into a length-of-the-field touchdown.

His second TD was ridiculous for a different reason. He made an amazing one-handed catch down the middle, and then as he was approaching the goal line, Minkah Fitzpatrick nearly took the ball away for an interception but Davis out-fought him to maintain possession into the end zone to complete the 62-yard TD. It is an early nominee for play of the year for the Bills, which is saying something with this team.

That made Davis just the fifth player since 2000 to catch two TD passes of more than 60 yards in a game. He finished with three catches for 171 yards, a cool 57-yard average per catch.

Diggs had eight catches for 102 yards including an embarrassingly easy 15-yard TD on a quick slant when Steelers CB Cameron Sutton gave him way too much cushion. That one made it 24-3.

And then Shakir somehow slipped behind the Steelers coverage to catch another easy 24-yard TD pass for the 31-3 halftime lead.

Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (7) recovers a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Orchard Park, NY. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)
Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (7) recovers a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Orchard Park, NY. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Bills' defense may be the best coached in the NFL

On Thanksgiving night, the Bills’ secondary was one of the best in the NFL as it consisted of cornerbacks Wallace and Tre’Davious White and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde.

Sunday, Wallace was playing for the Steelers and White, Poyer and Hyde were all out injured, so the unit was made up of cornerbacks Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam and safeties Damar Hamlin and JaQuan Johnson. And it didn’t even matter.

Well, it mattered a little because while Elam did make a late first-half interception, he was abused by the Steelers wide receivers for much of the game, so that’s going to be a point of emphasis this week in practice as the Bills get ready to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

But Johnson and Hamlin were outstanding in the deep half, Taron Johnson was his usual steady self in the slot, and while Pickett piled up all kinds of garbage time yards, he couldn’t get the Steelers in the end zone. He finished 34 of 52 for 327 yards.

Tyrel Dodson took over for injured Tremaine Edmunds and was excellent all the way around and he was awarded a sack when he chased Pickett out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. The Steelers finished with just 54 yards rushing on 17 attempts.

Special teams didn’t have the sharpest performance

We don’t say that too often about the Bills kicking teams, but there were some problems. Jones muffing the opening kickoff could have been a disaster, but Allen and Davis bailed him out.

Taron Johnson recovered a muffed kickoff in the first quarter when the Steelers return man, James Pierce, fell victim to the swirling winds in the stadium. But when that possession died thanks to a Ryan Bates holding penalty, Tyler Bass mis-hit a 49-yard field goal and it was blocked.

I think because of the wind Bass was trying to hit a line drive to keep it out of the air, but it didn’t work.

And Shakir was the man deep on punts and he also had problems with the wind and mistakenly let a ball hit the ground and it wound up as a 69-yard punt that was downed at the 2-yard-line.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Orchard Park, NY. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Orchard Park, NY. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Josh Allen and Bills decimate Steelers in rout, show off depth