In the second of their preseason games, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to come out on top 19-16 over the Buffalo Bills. After a mediocre performance in their first game of the preseason against the Giants, Pittsburgh looked much more focused, at least the first teamers, and came out strong. Coach Mike Tomlin stated that he liked getting the win, but there is much to improve upon going forward, which is pretty much how every coach feels during preseason football.
Even though the Bills were first to get on the scoreboard, the Steelers first team defense played much better than in their limited time against the Giants. They were able to hold the Bills starters to only six points in the first half. The defense held Buffalo on two separate fourth down attempts and forced an interception on the second drive of the game. The Bills had a big injury concern, as rookie fourth overall pick Sammy Watkins went out very early in the game with an apparent rib injury, and as of now, his status is uncertain.
A great sign of things to come came in the form of rookie first round pick Ryan Shazier getting playing time and making the most of it, after missing the first preseason game due to injury. On the Bills second drive of the game, Shazier was able to pick off EJ Manuel with an athletic play in coverage down the seam on a ball meant for tight end Scott Chandler. The rookie out of Ohio State is looking like he will slide comfortably in as the starting weak side inside linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons, and bring some much-needed youth and athleticism.
The offense, especially the passing game, looked very sharp early on in the game, scoring on passing plays on the first two drives. The first score came from a short pass caught by Antonio Brown, who found a hole in the defense and took it 76 yards for the score. The Steelers will need another big year from Brown, as they do not have the stable of experienced receivers they have relied upon in previous years. A touchdown on the second drive came from a very nice throw by Ben Roethlisberger to find second year wide out Markus Wheaton in the corner of the end zone. Wheaton has emerged as the second starting wide receiver early in the preseason, but there is still time for Lance Moore or rookie Martavis Bryant to try to dethrone him.
Rookie third round pick Dri Archer showed off his explosive speed again in this game, catching a short pass from Landry Jones and taking it 40 yards. He has not been able to find as many seams in the rushing game, but finding him in open space on short passes or screens has worked very well early in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley will need to find ways to showcase his tremendous speed in the open field, but he could turn into a tremendous weapon for the Steelers.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Howard Jones made another perfectly timed fumble recovery. Against the Giants, he returned a fumble for the Steelers’ only touchdown of the game, and against the Bills, he picked one up and returned it to the one-yard line to win the game. It was looking as if the game was headed for overtime until linebacker Vic So’Oto was able to sack quarterback Jeff Tuel and force a fumble. That set up a Shaun Suisham field goal to win the game and make Pittsburgh 1-1 in the preseason.
Getting the first preseason win does not mean much in terms of regular season success, but it is a step in the right direction for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their first team offense looked sharp and they got some plays on defense from some young guys. Next up Pittsburgh has the Philadelphia Eagles, and they will continue to look for continued improvement on both sides of the ball.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius