The special teams coughed up a 75-yard kickoff return early but contributed a scoreboard-changing, momentum-generating blocked punt late as the Steelers wiped out a 10-point, first-half deficit and rallied to beat the Bills, 23-16, for openers today at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.
Kicker Chris Boswell's third field goal of the game, this one from 45 yards away, gave the Steelers their second 10-point lead at 23-13 with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo countered with a 42-yard field goal from kicker Tyler Bass with 45 seconds remaining, but wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster recovered Bass' attempt at an onside kick 42 seconds before the final gun.
Safety Miles Killebrew blocked Matt Haack's punt on fourth-and-12 from the Bills' 23-yard line and linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III scooped and scored on a 9-yard return for a touchdown with 9:45 left in the fourth.
Boswell's extra point gave the Steelers a 20-10 lead.
The Bills finally scored again following 20 unanswered points by the Steelers on a 25-yard field goal by Bass with 5:23 left in regulation that cut the Steelers' lead to 20-13.
Trailing 10-0 after 30 minutes, the Steelers took their first lead of the game with 11:19 left in the fourth.
The drive for their first touchdown occurred following a fourth-down stop by the defense that gave the Steelers possession at their 48. From there a 26-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Levi Wallace on third-and-7 from the Bills' 49 set up a first-and-10 from the Buffalo 23. Running back Najee Harris next bolted 18 yards to the 5, and Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Dionte Johnson on a fade over Wallace in the back of the end zone.
Boswell's extra point gave the Steelers a 13-10 advantage.
The Bills took control early when they drove 91 yards on 13 plays in 5:39 for the game's first touchdown with 22 seconds left prior to halftime.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium
Quarterback Josh Allen found wide receiver Gabriel Davis in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal from the Steelers' 3 for the score. Bass' extra point improved the Bills lead to 10-0.
Allen was 7-for-8 passing for 86 yards on the march (his only incompletion was a throw away on first-and-goal from the Steelers' 6) and also carried four times for 9 yards on the drive. Allen's 37-yard completion to Davis on third-and-5 from the Bills' 27 extended the possession and got Buffalo all the way out of a first-and-20 hole after left tackle Dion Dawkins had been called for holding.
The Steelers' six possessions in the first two quarters resulted in five punts and a kneel-down to end the first half.
Buffalo opened the scoring on the game's first possession thanks to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie's 75-yard return of the opening kickoff to the Steelers' 24. The defense forced a three-and-out but a 37-yard field goal by Bass gave the Bills a 3-0 lead 1:30 into the game.
The Steelers closed the gap with field goals on their first two possessions of the third quarter.
The first, a 24-yard effort from Boswell, concluded a 10-play, 69-yard drive in 4:27 following the kickoff to begin the second half.
Roethlisberger hit two big plays on the drive, a 19-yard completion to tight end Eric Ebron on third-and-4 from the Steelers' 47 and then a 22-yard connection to wide receiver Chase Claypool on the next snap.
The defense stopped the Bills on fourth-and-8 from the Steelers' 35 on Buffalo's next possession (Allen threw incomplete deep for Davis).
This time the Steelers drove 62 yards on 11 plays in 4:01 and inched to within 10-6 on a 20-yard field goal by Boswell.
A 25-yard wide receiver sweep by Claypool set up a first-and-goal from the Bills' 4, but the drive fizzled from there. Harris lost 2 yards on first down and Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Ebron and then found Harris on a crossing route on a completion that only gained 4 yards to the Bills' 2 and the Steelers settled for three.
Another fourth-down stop three plays into the fourth quarter, a tackle for a 7-yard loss by cornerback Cam Sutton on a pitch to running back Matt Breida, set the Steelers up at their 48 with 13:42 left in regulation. They took the lead four plays later and never relinquished it.