Steelers lose 2nd straight, and Bills further exposed their broken dink-and-dunk offense

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Frank Schwab
·3 min read
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Somehow, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ entire goal on offense has become Ben Roethlisberger getting rid of the ball quickly. It’s like nothing else matters. Not scoring points or picking up first downs. Just Roethlisberger releasing the ball and avoiding hits.

There’s no running game to speak of. There’s little happening downfield in the passing game. It’s a predictable offense seemingly designed to minimize a future Hall of Fame quarterback, which seems counterintuitive.

The Buffalo Bills were there to take advantage. The Steelers got little going on offense and when Roethlisberger threw a pick six late in the first half, the Bills took over the game. Josh Allen was brilliant in the second half, carving up a talented Steelers defense in a 26-15 win. The Steelers are 11-2, now a game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the No. 1 seed and lone bye in the AFC this season.

The Steelers started 11-0. They have lost two straight, and need to figure out how to fix a dink-and-dunk offense that isn’t scaring anyone.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense struggled again in loss to Bills. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense struggled again in loss to Bills. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Steelers’ short passing game has hit a wall

The Steelers’ insistence on the extreme quick passing approach is even stranger because Roethlisberger was never that kind of quarterback.

For years Roethlisberger would happily extend plays, fight off defenders and let it fly downfield. Now the Steelers seem to have a stopwatch going on every snap, making sure Roethlisberger is getting rid of the ball in 2 seconds or less, actual result of the play be damned.

The Bills figured that out quickly. The Steelers led 7-3 late in the second quarter when Taron Johnson jumped a short, quick pass — it’s not like that was unpredictable — and picked it off. He returned it 51 yards for a touchdown.

There’s nothing wrong with a short, precision passing game. The Steelers have the playmakers to make it work, when they’re not dropping passes. It’s an offense that the Steelers rode to 11-0. Pittsburgh is still one of the best teams in football. It was just hard to watch them try the same thing over and over against the Bills, without many positive results. There was no counterpunch.

Maybe Roethlisberger doesn’t want to get hit anymore. Perhaps his surgically repaired elbow can’t handle more than the Steelers are asking him to do. No matter the reason, something has to change or the Steelers could be in danger of a quick playoff exit.

Bills on verge of division title

Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been compared to Roethlisberger. He plays a similar style to what Roethlisberger used to play.

The Steelers brought extra rushers against Allen constantly on Sunday night. He stood in against the rush and eventually figured it out. A major piece of that puzzle was getting the ball to Stefon Diggs, who has been as good as the Bills hoped when they traded for him this offseason. Allen has been fantastic most of the season for Buffalo and has been even better the past two weeks. Allen had 238 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday night. He’s getting hot at just the right time for Buffalo.

The Bills are one of the best teams in football. They are 10-3, and on the verge of their first division title since 1995. The win on Sunday night coupled with the Miami Dolphins’ loss gives the Bills a two-game lead with three games to go. After a slow start, the Bills got hot and put the Steelers away with ease. It was an impressive performance for Buffalo, and a troubling one for Pittsburgh.

At least Roethlisberger took just one sack and most plays got the ball out right away. It seems that’s all the Steelers want from their offense anymore.

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