STEELERS 19, BILLS 16, OT
Steelers' record: 8-3
One year ago: 6-5
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 14-9
Often, the final quality a team develops in the process of becoming a legitimate contender is the ability to handle success. In bouncing back from losses first to New Orleans and then to New England, the Steelers showed they have the ability to respond to adversity, and the win over the Raiders was a dominant performance one week after that thorough beating by the Patriots. How would the Steelers respond to their response?
The Bills offense had done next to nothing through most of the third quarter when James Harrison was flagged for roughing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Steelers sideline was clearly irate over the call, and before the team could its grip on things, Fred Jackson had gone 65 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
With 10 sacks, James Harrison has gotten into double-digits for the third straight season. He is the first player in franchise history to hit double-digits in sacks in three consecutive seasons.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* This is the way to start a game against a team you're supposed to beat. The Steelers drove 78 yards in 13 plays – with nine of them runs for 44 yards – for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead one possession into the game. Also on the drive, the Bills lost a starting defensive lineman with a hamstring injury.
- To the point where the Steelers took a 10-0 lead on Shaun Suisham's 44-yasrd field goal, they had possessed the ball for 14:06 of the first 15:15 of the game.
- Bills receiver Steve Johnson came into the game on something of a hot streak, but the Steelers cooled him off more effectively than the weather in western New York. In addition to two drops where it seemed as though he was hearing footsteps, Johnson also lost a fumble. James Harrison forced the fumble, and Troy Polamalu recovered at the Steelers 19-yard line.
- One play after a ludicrous holding call on Chris Kemoeatu nullified a 42-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall and set up a first-and-20 and the Pittsburgh 10-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger completed a 26-yard pass to Heath Miller. He also converted a third-and-16 with an 18-yard run. The drive ended with Suisham's 48-yard field goal and a 16-13 lead.
- With that 48-yard field goal plus the one he made in overtime, Suisham had converted 12 straight attempts between 40-49 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* The Steelers' third offensive possession of the game wasn't a very good one for the offensive line. In addition to holding penalties on Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu, the Bills also recorded three sacks, all by defensive linemen. Two of those sacks were recorded by nose tackle Kyle Williams.
- The Steelers' domination of the statistics through the first half should have been reflected by more than a 13-0 margin at halftime. Some examples: the Steelers held leads in number of offensive plays, 44-15; first downs, 18-4; and total yards, 225-51. The Steelers also converted 8-of-10 on third downs, while the Bills were 0-for-3. But the Steelers were penalized four times, while a fifth was declined, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times by a Bills defense that came into the game averaging 1.5 per game.
- James Harrison's sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter put him onto double digits on the season with 10.5, and it set up a third-and-17. On the next play, Fitzpatrick completed an 18-yard pass to Steve Johnson for a first down.
- It was a third-and-10 late in the third quarter when a middle screen to Fred Jackson turned into a 65-yard touchdown that cut the Steelers lead to 13-7. That single big play energized the Bills sideline and woke up the crowd. The Buffalo defense responded with its first three-and-out of the afternoon, and the Steelers found themselves in a ballgame.
- For the second straight game, Rashard Mendenhall lost a fumble, but this time it came in a close game. Early in the fourth quarter, on the first offensive play after the Buffalo field goal that made it 13-10, Mendenhall had the ball stolen from him by safety Jairus Byrd and the Bills took possession at the Pittsburgh 23-yard line. Three plays later, it was a 13-13 game.
During the game in Buffalo, the Steelers' depth at defensive line and cornerback was tested by injuries to Nick Eason and Bryant McFadden.
Eason sprained his MCL, and McFadden injured a hamstring. Neither on was able to return to the game, and Coach Mike Tomlin didn't have a prognosis on either player in the postgame. When players sustain injuries of that nature and are unable to continue, it's rare for them to be able to come back and play the following week.
Also, Ben Roethlisberger sprained his right foot at some point late in the first half, but he was able to finish out the game. With the injury, Roethlisberger was able to scramble for 18 yards to convert a third-and-16.
Early in the week, Tomlin had some doubts about Antonio Brown's potential availability, but he seemed to be confident about Brett Keisel's.
Brown had some swelling in his knee, and after he was unable to practice either Wednesday or Thursday, he was declared out of the game on Friday. Keisel practiced throughout the week, but then he was added to the injury report on Friday and listed as questionable with a calf injury.
Matt Spaeth missed Wednesday's practice with a concussion, and then after taking part on Thursday he was back on the sideline on Friday and was listed as doubtful for the game.
Brown, Keisel and Spaeth all were inactive, along with Jonathan Dwyer, Crezdon Butler, Chris Scott and Aaron Smith.