NFL Game of the Week: Bills vs. Steelers

Story posted December 11, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Chris Deptulski

Sunday Night Football features a premiere matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers that could very well be a playoff game preview. Both teams are trending in different directions.

The Steelers were just delivered a crushing blow from The Washington Football Team who collected just their fifth win through 12 games; one that consequently shatters Pittsburgh’s perfect season and begins to question the validity of their 11-1 record. The game before involved Pittsburgh escaping a comeback attempt from third-string quarterback Trace McSorley and his practice squad counterparts.

The Buffalo Bills on the other hand, are coming off of a commanding victory in which they dismantled the talented San Francisco 49ers defense. Quarterback Josh Allen is beginning to put his name in the MVP conversation after going 32-40 for 375 yards and tossing four touchdowns.

The last time these two squads faced off against each other was December of last year on the same stage of Sunday Night Football. An exciting showdown resulted in the Bills’ defense prevailing as they limited the Steelers’ rushing attack to 52 yards. They also recorded a staggering four interceptions, winning by a final score of 17-10.

The only difference this Sunday will be the man behind center for the Steelers. Last December, we witnessed Devlin Hodges choke under the spotlight. This Sunday, we will see a potential hall-of-famer in Ben Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh will also be returning their prolific running back James Conner after a stint on the COVID-19 list. He looks to reignite the ground game after a measly performance by Benny Snell against the Washington Football Team.

Roethlisberger has continued to air it out this season. He has logged at least 265 yards in each of his last five games.

The Bills’ secondary has not lived up to its standards from last year. They have been allowing an average of 263 passing yards per game, which ranks 12th highest in the NFL.

While Roethlisberger’s performance last week was far from exciting, he did not receive the help he usually gets from his star-studded receiving core. Eric Ebron and Diontae Johnson, who have been quite dependable this season, tallied multiple drops against Washington. If Roethlisberger can solidify the passing game, and Conner can rebound off the COVID-19 list, the Steelers have a great opportunity to score points.

The Steelers have allowed an average of just 100 rushing yards a game this season, which ranks sixth in the NFL. With the Bills’ lackadaisical rushing attack from Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, we can likely expect Josh Allen to throw the ball a lot Sunday night. The mix-and-match offensive line has surprisingly held up quite well for Allen, giving him ample time to pass and make plays with his feet. The absence of linebacker Bud Dupree, who has racked up 31 tackles and eight sacks this season for the Steelers can also help ease the pressure on Allen.

Allen’s accuracy has continued to improve tremendously throughout the year as he completed 80% of his passes against the 49ers last week. It will be important that he locates his passes this week against the second-ranked passing defense in the league. 

A key for Allen this week will be to continue to spread the ball to all of his receivers. He found great success in doing so last week as he connected with four different receivers in the endzone. Pittsburgh will look to bottle up Stefon Diggs who is currently second in the league in targets.

If Allen can continue to find veteran Cole Beasley and rookie fourth-round pick Gabriel Davis, the Bills have the potential to put up points against this talented defense and win the game.

Prediction: Bills 31, Steelers 28

 

Chris Deptulski is a senior majoring in biorenewable systems. To contact him, email cgd5108@psu.edu.