Little goes right in 43-19 loss


Steelers' record: 1-3
One year ago: 1-3
Preseason series record: Steelers lead, 8-3

This game came at the end of a seven-day span starting with Maurkice Pouncey breaking his fibula, before moving on to a Michael Vick-for-Bruce Gradkowski exchange at the backup quarterback position, and then coming in hot with the leaked info that Martavis Bryant is appealing a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL's substance abuse program.

Those are the kinds of things that can happen during a typical week of an NFL regular season – coaches like to refer to these things as "distractions" – and so in a weird way could serve to aid in the evaluation process. Who can focus on the task at hand despite the drama? Who might be able to take advantage of opportunities possibly opened up as a result of injuries and/or suspensions? And all of it happening along with the transition of life in a dormitory on a college campus to moving back to Pittsburgh with a lot more free time on your hands.

There was this game against the Bills, a fourth of five on the Steelers' preseason schedule in 2015, and then 48 hours after it ended there was a mandatory roster cut-down from 90 to 75 players. Tuesday at 4 p.m. was the deadline.

"More than anything I'm interested in the ability to respond to a (positive) performance," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I want to see if they can put positive performance on top of positive performance. Guys have had their moments throughout the preseason. All guys are capable of providing splash plays and quality play, but can they do it in a consistent enough manner to deserve professional football."

At first glance, Tomlin didn't get anything he wanted. The performance the Steelers put together brought to mind a situation during the preseason of one of Chuck Noll's seasons during the late 1980s. After a similarly dispiriting performance in a preseason game immediately preceding a round of cuts, Noll was asked whether the outcome made it more difficult to make cuts.

Noll deadpanned, "Cutting won't be a problem. Stopping will."

With only two days of practice with the Steelers, Mike Vick got into the game in the first quarter, on the series after Ben Roethlisberger directed an 80-yard touchdown drive ending with a DeAngelo Williams touchdown, the team's first rushing touchdown of this preseason.

It became clear quickly that Vick was going to be operating with a very limited menu. But even with that, he moved the team down the field for a field goal that sliced Buffalo's lead at the time to 13-11. The big play was the first play – a 63-yard completion to Martavis Bryant off play-action that moved the ball to the Bills' 17-yard line.

In all, Vick played two series and completed 4-of-5 passes for 106 yards, with no touchdowns, no interceptions, one sack, and a rating of 118.8. He also scrambled once for 1 yard.

Ross Ventrone, Cortez Allen, Vince Williams were in uniform for the Steelers. Mike Mitchell, Stephon Tuitt, Lawrence Timmons were not. Then during the game, the Steelers lost kicker Garrett Hartley to a right hamstring injury and Bud Dupree  to a right foot injury.

The Bills came into this preseason game with a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job, and what happened against the Steelers didn't really clarify things for Coach Rex Ryan.

After three quarterbacks, three different Bills quarterbacks had completed 24-of-27 passes for 326 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a combined rating of 141.7. When it was over, it was 30-for-33 for 386 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 135.6.

On those 33 pass attempts, the Steelers were credited with two passes defensed, and both of those came on the same play. Ethan Hemer batted a ball at the line of scrimmage that fluttered into the flat, where Brandon Boykin dropped the interception that would have been a 35-yard pick-six had he held on.

The Bills converted 11-of-14 third downs, which is a 79 percent success rate, and Buffalo held the ball for 38 minutes and 10 seconds in the game.

One of the first buses transporting the Steelers from Ralph Wilson Stadium to the airport after the game started to overheat and had to pull over on the side of the highway. Half of the occupants of that bus got onto the other one, while the rest of those passengers had to wait for the second wave to get picked up.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.