11.26.2010

Nobody Circles The Drain Like The Buffalo Bills

Sorry for a spin on a Berman reference in the headline, but it was either that or something playing on Stevie Johnson's "Why So Serious?" celebration last week. And at this point, Dark Knight references are only slightly less overplayed.

And while I'm on the subject, when did that extra "i" get shoehorned into his Johnson's first name? Up until last week, every mention of the guy I'd seen had his name as Steve Johnson. Who's this Stevie? Is there an unspoken rule that once a receiver scores three touchdowns in one game that he is free to rejigger his name in any way he pleases?

As for the Bills, despite their record, they certainly aren't a team to be taken lightly. That's what we saw yesterday on Thanksgiving early game - even the teams with terrible records in the NFL aren't very terrible this season. After for weeks being on the verge of capturing their first win, by pushing some pretty good teams (Chiefs, Bears, Ravens) to the brink, now Buffalo has won two in a row.

The Steelers were able to dominate the Raiders' offense last week, but Oakland's run-first attack plays directly in the Steelers' strength. Even though they had a pretty good game running the ball, the Patriots understand that you're better off not even trying to run against the Steelers. At best, you pass to set up the run. That said, very few teams in the league can do to the Steelers what the Pats did a few weeks back. Ryan Fitzpatrick is having a pretty good year, but it remains to be seen whether he's quite that good. Having Brett Keisel back at defensive end should further help a pass rush that bounced back well last week.

And if it helps you sleep better, the Steelers have won their only matchup against Fitzpatrick, a 27-10 victory when he started for the Bengals in 2008. That won advanced the Steelers to 8-3, which would be a nice parallel for a win on Sunday.

It should allay concerns that Steve or Stevie will take over that the Bills huge second half against the Bengals last week coincided with four Cincy defensive back leaving the game with injuries, including starting corner Jonathan Joseph. Nevertheless, Buffalo absolutely bombarded the Ravens through the air. Let's just hope that William Gay sees as little man coverage on Johnson as possible.

Concerns over a trap game get less worrisome when you focus on the Bills' porous defense. They're 25th in yardage allowed. They allow the seventh highest third down conversion rate. There's no one on the roster with more than three sacks. They've forced only about 60 percent of the turnovers the Steelers have, and, most importantly, they're given up the fourth most points of all NFL teams. Me likely.

They are last in penalty yards, however, so don't expect any make-up calls for the officiating disaster that was last week. And that's fine for me so long as no one (on either team, really) gets flagged for hitting a receiver in the back or pushing a quarterback a quarter of a second after they release the ball. If you saw the Jets-Bengals game last night, you know it's a league-wide issue.

As a quick aside - I was happy to see much more of Antonio Brown last week against Oakland, even if he didn't have a huge impact. Other than one big reception in the first meeting with the Ravens and a touchdown pass that was more the result of a great play by Mike Wallace, Randle El hasn't been that much of a positive factor in the offense. He was crazy with the drops against New England and just doesn't seem to have much quickness is routes or on returns. Brown is at least going forward and taking the yards given him on punt duty.

It might be a closer game than any of us would be comfortable with against the Bills, but there's still no excuse for the Steelers not to go into Buffalo and get the job done, likely setting up a huge contest the following week in Baltimore with what could be the division on the line.

On a final note, I loved this very, very Ben opener from this article about Sean Kugler returning to face Buffalo, where he coached the O-line last year:

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked this week that he didn't remember offensive line coach Sean Kugler's first name until a Buffalo reporter mentioned it.

"We just call him Koogs," Roethlisberger said.

1 comment:

Tommy said...

"We call the big one bitey." Roethlisberger said.