Ben, again

There are plenty of snapshots that capture what has been a breakout season for third-year Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Most if not all should be recognizable to Steelers fans.

Consider Allen's compete level on third-and-6 from the Buffalo 21-yard line with less than four minutes remaining and the Bills leading, 34-17, on Monday night against San Francisco in Phoenix:

Allen accepts a shotgun snap and pumps left before retreating back and to the right to escape two onrushing defenders. He pump-fakes again before turning upfield and toward the sideline. Finally, Allen lets it fly on the run while fending off a third pass-rusher and just before going out of bounds.

The pass eventually fell incomplete, but it wasn't because Allen didn't give the play every opportunity to succeed.

"He doesn't want to throw it away," ESPN play-by-play man Steve Levy maintained. "He just doesn't want to throw the ball away, trying to make every play."

Before ESPN signed off on its broadcast, color analyst Brian Griese said what's hard not think while watching Allen in action this season:

"You've got a young Ben Roethlisberger right here in Josh Allen."

The original is still thriving in Pittsburgh, which should add to the intrigue on Sunday night when the Bills host the Steelers.

Allen, 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, has extended plays long enough and trusted his arm often enough to throw for 26 touchdowns along with eight interceptions for the 9-3 Bills.

Roethlisberger, 6-5, 240, has thrown for 27 TDs and been picked off seven times for the 11-1 Steelers.

Although Roethlisberger's signature in recent seasons, particularly this one, has been to get the ball out of the pocket as quickly as possible, the comparisons between the way he used to play the game and the way Allen is playing it at present seem as obvious as they are inevitable.

"He reminds me a lot of Ben when he was young," Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler observed.

Except Roethlisberger was never the running threat Allen has been since entering the NFL as the seventh-overall selection in 2018 (the Bills' version of Young Big Ben has 1,463 career rushing yards and 23 career rushing TDs, including 322 and six this season).

What's changed the most since then is Allen's accuracy. He completed 52.8 percent of his passes a rookie and 58.8 percent in 2019. The figure this season is 69.9 percent, including a 32-for-40 effort against San Francisco.

That and the frequency with which he found the end zone against the 49ers made Allen the first Bills quarterback to complete 80 percent of his passes and throw for four touchdowns in a game (no wonder he wasn't willing to give up on that seemingly meaningless, late-game third down).

The TDs went to four different targets, including rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis (his team-leading fifth of the season).

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, acquired in a trade with Minnesota, is tied for the NFL lead with 90 receptions and ranks fifth in receiving yards with 1,037 (a total that's also good enough for ninth in yards from scrimmage).

The Bills have scored 333 points in 12 games, eighth-best in the NFL.

That's just one fewer than the Steelers, who are No. 7 in points scored at 334.

This is not the same Buffalo offense that came to Heinz Field and slugged it out in what became a 17-10 Bills victory last Dec. 15.

It doesn't begin and end with the trigger man, but it absolutely starts there.

"He's a heck of competitor, and competes every play," defensive tackle Cam Heyward assessed of Allen. "He's very similar to Ben, a young Ben that can extend the pocket, and make plays with his feet, as well."