STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
CB Ronald Darby, who sat out the Oakland game because of a concussion, is expected back this week for the Steelers game. He practiced for the first time since getting hurt two weeks ago.
G John Miller was evaluated for a concussion in Oakland late in the game. He passed the tests and is expected to be ready for Pittsburgh.
WR Percy Harvin won't play the rest of the season, as he was placed on the non-football illness list due to his recurring problems with migraines.
LB Zach Brown continues to lead the Bills with 116 tackles, 10 of which have been for lost yardage, which also leads the team.
RB LeSean McCoy is closing in on the fifth 1,000-yard rushing season of his career, and first with the Bills.
QB Tyrod Taylor's six rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a Bills' quarterback since Daryle Lamonica had six in 1964.
LB Lorenzo Alexander continues to lead the Bills with 10 sacks, but he hasn't had any in the last three games.
WR Robert Woods (knee) is back working on a limited basis, but it seems unlikely that he will play this week.
The Bills have to find a way to control the ball and keep Ben Roethlisberger and his potent offense off the field. The best way to do that is to run the ball, and no team runs it better than the Bills. Three times this season, the Bills have topped 200 yards rushing (one game was a 313-yard performance). LeSean McCoy is having a Pro Bowl-level season, and his backup, Mike Gillislee, averages a whopping 6.4 yards per carry.
On defense, CBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby (assuming he plays, which he is expected to) will have their hands full with Antonio Brown, who will switch sides and test them both. Brown is a matchup nightmare because of his speed plus his toughness and ability to win 50-50 balls, so the big play is a concern for Buffalo. But the Bills must also be wary of RB LeVeon Bell who has caught 63 passes this season, and players like LB Zach Brown and S James Idehigbo have to be sharp when Bell slips out of the backfield.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Fullback Jerome Felton. It might be a dying position in the NFL, but the Bills have not subscribed to that theory. They brought in Felton as a free agent last season to be a lead blocker in Greg Roman's run-heavy offense, but it really didn't work, as he played only 26 percent of the snaps. Felton was released at the end of training camp in what amounted to a salary cap maneuver, then was re-signed to the veteran minimum after the first game. He's playing about the same amount (27 percent of the snaps to date) but he's been more of a difference-maker, as the Bills lead the NFL in rushing and are averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. Last week against Oakland, Felton might have had his best game as a Bill, with several crushing blocks that helped lead to 212 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bills LBs vs. Steelers RB LeVeon Bell. One of the things that makes Bell so great is his patience, his ability to wait for a crease to open and then burst through. The Bills are stout up the middle with DTs Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, so Bell will probably need to bounce some runs outside. If he does, LBs Preston Brown and Zach Brown will be put to the test, and the issue for them is that neither is very good at shedding blockers. That might be enough for Bell to break some big runs.
Bills OL line vs. Steelers LBs. Similarly, on the other side of the ball, the critical matchup will be Buffalo's ability to run against Pittsburgh. It's no secret the Bills are a run-first team and they lead the NFL in rushing. No team averages more yards before contact that the Bills, which indicates the line particularly LT Cordy Glenn and LG Richie Incognito can get out in space and get to the second level of the defense. But Steelers' ILBs Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons are outstanding athletes who can work through traffic to get to ball carriers.