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Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Week 5 preview

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© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

 

 

The Buffalo Bills are either playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at the best or worst time possible.

 

At halftime of last week’s loss to the New York Jets, coach Mike Tomlin finally decided to pull the plug on the Mitchell Trubisky experiment. There was some hope a new atmosphere outside of Chicago plus a year learning behind Josh Allen, Brian Daboll, and Ken Dorsey could work wonders for the former No. 2 overall pick. But we saw the same QB who struggles to make big plays through the air, leading a lethargic Steelers offense.

 

Now, after what’s been a rough start to their season, Pittsburgh turns to rookie Kenny Pickett, the 20th overall pick out of Pitt, at QB. No one knows what to expect. Do we suddenly see an offense that can move the chains, as evidenced by Pickett leading his team to 14 second-half points after Trubisky posted just six in the first half? Or should we expect the typical rookie mistakes that can lead to disaster?

 

Either way, the Steelers are trying something new after a 1-3 start, and they should have more pep in their step this week.

 

But Buffalo’s coming off a hard-fought battle in which they outlasted Lamar Jackson and Co. in a three-point victory on the road. 

 

We’ve got a battle-tested group that’s better than Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball. There may not be a single position group Pittsburgh can say is wholeheartedly better than what Bills Mafia brings to the table. Yet, this is a Tomlin-coached team, so you should expect a team that plays through the whistle and won’t want to roll over easily. 

Buffalo Bills vs. Steelers game details, where to watch

  • Sunday, October 9, 2022
  • Start time: 1:00 PM ET
  • TV channel - CBS
  • Location - Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, New York

 

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© Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Matchups to watch

  • Josh Allen vs Minkah Fitzpatrick

 

Last week may not have been the big day many expected from Josh Allen, as the Ravens had the worst pass defense in football coming into the game, but he still got the win. Allen’s still on pace to compete for an MVP trophy, and more importantly, he’s completing passes at a career-best rate of 67.3%.

 

Usually, when taking on the Steelers, it’s all about limiting T.J. Watt. After the All-Pro pass rusher suffered a torn pectoral muscle, he won’t be chasing Allen out of the pocket. 

 

Instead, the key defender hangs out in the Pittsburgh defensive backfield. Two-time All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is the definition of a ball hawk. He’s already tallied three interceptions and a touchdown through four games. He’s been phenomenal, allowing just 56 yards on nine targets, allowing five catches. Fitzpatrick has also missed just one tackle, according to Pro Football Focus

 

When Allen winds up to throw, he’ll have to think twice about the ball placement, doing his best not to throw it high or with too much velocity where a tip could lead to a pick for Fitz. Throwing over the middle of the field, whether it’s on a medium or deep shot down the field, will come with a much greater risk on Sunday. 

 

  • Jordan Poyer vs. Kenny Pickett

 

Sure, that Minkah Fitzpatrick cat is pretty good, but Jordan Poyer is in that same conversation when it comes to the top safeties in football. Like Fitz, obviously, Poyer acts as a magnet for the pigskin. He leads the NFL with four interceptions after last week’s two-pick effort. 

 

He’ll get plenty of opportunities to add to his league-leading total, with Pickett stopping by for a visit. Pickett promptly threw three interceptions in one half of football last week as he made his official NFL debut. To be fair, two were off the hands of his receivers, and the other was a deep try down the field that his receiver had a chance at.

 

But it’s not all fun and games. Despite being a first-year pro, we should expect Pickett to lead a far more explosive offense than Trubisky operated. Pickett was said to be the most pro-ready QB in the draft class, and he lit it up in preseason play. The Bills won’t be able to stack the box in an effort to limit Najee Harris. Instead, they’ll have to respect the deep ball since the Steelers have several talented pass-catching options, such as Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and George Pickens. 

 

Who knows. We could see a vintage Josh Allen vs. Minnesota game out of Pickett where he makes a few defenders look foolish as he scrambles around to buy more time while sprinkling in some dimes. But make no mistake, this kid’s a rookie, and the Bills can still confuse him with coverages. 

 

  • Von Miller vs. Dan Moore Jr. and a suspect Steelers O-line

 

Maybe one of the biggest reasons why the Steelers’ offense has been so hard to watch each of the past two seasons is due to a crumbling offensive line. After ranking 21st in the NFL in points scored in 2021, the Steelers are doing slightly worse, averaging 18.5 points, good for 23rd in the NFL through four games. Some of that is on lackluster QB play, but their offensive line has also been below-average. 

 

Aside from right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, none of the Steelers’ starters have graded positively as a run blocker, leading to a lack of holes for Najee Harris to burst through. Left tackle Dan Moore has held up in pass protection, allowing just one sack, but he’s also already committed three penalties, suggesting he sometimes lacks focus. Not to mention, Moore allowed seven sacks a year ago, so he’s due.

 

Von Miller has been his usual gold jacket self, already tallying 14 pressures to go with three sacks. He’s also been strong as a run defender, which he’ll have to be on Sunday with Harris visiting town. Miller has been credited with making seven stops on only 43 snaps in run defense. It doesn’t matter what the eight-time Pro Bowl rusher is asked to do. He’s excellent at everything. 

 

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© Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills vs. Steelers game prediction

  • This season’s record: Buffalo Bills 3-1, 2nd in AFC East
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-3, last place in AFC North

 

It’s Sunday, so it’s anyone’s guess what we’re in for, but this game feels even more random with an unknown at QB along with a Pittsburgh team eager to erase the bitter taste of defeat from their palate after three consecutive letdowns. Still, it’s hard to envision the Steelers offense suddenly piecing it all together in Week 5 against a top Bills defense. Pittsburgh’s high score has been just 20 points, but we expect better if Pickett can provide a fresh spark. 

 

Unless there’s a fluke turnover such as an unpredictable fumble, or wild, tipped pass, expect the Buffalo herd to continue rumbling toward the goal line in another victory. 

 

While the betting line will fluctuate all week, Vegas initially has the Bills favored by 14 points by oddsmakers, which is their largest amount yet this season. Don’t expect Buffalo to clear it, but we’re not providing any betting advice. 

 

Game prediction: Bills 34, Steelers 23 - Bills victory

 

 

Go Bills!!!

 

Related:

Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens Week 4 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins Week 3 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Tennessee Titans Week 2 preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Rams Week 1 preview

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