The Pittsburgh Steelers will head into Orchard Park to take on a talented Buffalo Bills team which is just months removed from an AFC Championship game appearance.
This will be the third year in a row that the two squads have faced off; both of the previous matchups ended in Buffalo's favor. What do the Steelers need to do in order to break the streak and come away with a win behind enemy lines?
Get Najee Harris Going
The Steelers are looking for more balance on offense after selecting the Alabama product in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Balance doesn't mean an equal number of runs to passes, but rather being able to run the ball effectively when they need to. The weakness of last year's Bills defense was being able to effectively stop opposing teams on the ground. The Bills allowed successful runs on 44.6% of plays last year, which ranked 26th in the NFL.
The Steelers struggled to run the ball in this matchup last year, totaling just 47 yards on 17 carries. Look for the Steelers to get Harris rolling early to try to take some pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger.
As most Steelers fans are aware, Pittsburgh ranked dead last once again in play-action usage in 2020. It remains to be seen how effective new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's scheme will be, but the preseason returns were solid.
We saw more play-action and a higher percentage of motion than in years past. This could be key this week as Buffalo really struggled against tight ends last season. They allowed 92 catches for 993 yards and eight touchdowns to tight ends in 2020.
It helps that the Steelers now have two capable pass catchers at the position after drafting Pat Freiermuth to pair with Eric Ebron. Play action could go a long way to helping free up guys like Ebron, Freirmuth and even JuJu Smith-Schuster for plays over the middle of the field.
Limit Stefon Diggs
In last year's matchup, the Steelers were without cornerback Joe Haden due to him being in the concussion protocol. This left Steven Nelson and Cam Sutton to match up with Stefon Diggs on the outside. Needless to say, Diggs won those matchups (10 catches, 130 yards and a touchdown) and was a big factor in Buffalo coming away with the win.
With Nelson now out of the picture, it will again be up to Sutton to slow down the First-Team All-Pro receiver. The silver lining is that Haden will also be available for Keith Butler's defense this time around. Brian Daboll really settled Josh Allen down in the last matchup after going to more max protection looks while isolating Diggs on the Steelers' corners down the field.
Keith Butler claims to have a plan to neutralize Diggs. One can only hope that his plan does not involve linebackers.
You May Also Like: