STEELERS 19, BILLS 16
Steelers' preseason record: 1-1
One year ago: 0-2
Preseason series record: Steelers lead, 8-2
Coach Mike Tomlin's expectation for this second of four preseason games was simply more of what he wanted to see from his team last weekend against the New York Giants. "I just want to see the guys take a step. A step in terms of intensity, a step in terms of quality execution, a step in terms of game speed, a step in terms of cohesion. And then ultimately, all of that has to lead to victory."
THE INJURY STORYLINE
The plan was to have the starters play into the second quarter, and one of those guys on defense – rookie Ryan Shazier – seemed poised to make his NFL debut. After missing several days worth of training camp practices along with the preseason opener with a bruised knee, Shazier participated fully in the final session at Saint Vincent College, which was on Thursday in the second of two joint practices with the Buffalo Bills. Since Shazier had been re-inserted with the first-team defense upon his return, and since he didn't have any setbacks with his injury, it seemed as though his path had been cleared to start at Heinz Field.
Not so for Jarvis Jones, who recorded a sack in just 12 snaps of work against the Giants and then didn't practice for the rest of the week because of a groin injury. Jones got no work during the Bills' two days on campus, and so it seemed unlikely he would participate in this preseason game.
The players not in uniform for the Steelers included Jarvis Jones, Will Allen, Devin Smith, Shaquille Richardson, Will Johnson, Jordan Zumwalt, Greg Warren, and Matt Spaeth. As for the game itself, Coach Mike Tomlin said the only in-game injury was to guard Bryant Browning, and it was a dislocated shoulder.
"Shaquille Richardson had a setback late in the week," said Tomlin. "Devin Smith had a setback late in the week. Those guys are being evaluated,. I don't know their availability for Philadelphia definitely will give you more information next time we sit down. We had a closed practice on Friday that was a good practice, and a couple guys didn't come out of it.
"Bryant Browning is the only injury of any significance at this point, and it's a shoulder dislocation. I don't have any details other than some bumps and bruises, but those are normal things. I don't anticipate anybody else having any type of injury that will prevent them from playing in Philadelphia, but again we'll wait to see what tomorrow morning's training room looks like."
It was looking like the game was going to go into overtime, and nobody wants to see that in the preseason. But then a couple of undrafted rookies came to everyone's rescue. It was a third-and-4 from the Buffalo 35-yard line with 31 seconds left. OLB Vic So'oto beat OT Cyrus Kouandjio with an outside rush and got to quarterback Jeff Tuel in plenty of time to strip the ball loose. Howard Jones picked up the loose ball and ran it to the Bills' 1-yard line with 15 seconds left.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
In barely more than one quarter, the first-team offense rolled up 139 yards of offense, converted 3-of-4 third downs, was 1-for-1 in the red zone, and scored two touchdowns. In the next two-plus quarters, the offense managed 115 yards, was 1-for-8 on third downs, and turned the ball over three times.
FILLING IN FOR WARREN
With Greg Warren expected to miss about a month after needing to have his meniscus surgically repaired, Round 1 of competition to replace him during his convalescence matched Bryce Davis vs. Luke Ingram.
Davis, signed to a futures contract in January, first tried to make it in the NFL in 2012 when he signed as an undrafted rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals. After spending some time on the Bengals' practice squad, Davis was again released by the team in August 2013. He was out of football until signing with the Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field in Week 2 of the 2014 Preseason.
"He's a capable guy, and we have some other candidates who are capable guys who have done it in the past in a variety of fashions – I'm talking about some offensive lineman short-snapping and so forth," said Tomlin. "But Bryce is the leading candidate, and really, that's what he was brought in here to do. He just kind of plays tight end on the side."
Added to the competition late on Thursday was Luke Ingram, who played his college football at Hawaii and had gone to Saint Vincent College with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie. Not long into camp, the Steelers found themselves short of healthy tight ends and cornerbacks, and so having two long-snappers in camp was judged a luxury.
Ingram was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars the day after the Steelers waived him, but he then was cut by the Jaguars at the end of the month. He had been out of football before signing with the Steelers.
Davis handled all of the snapping chores against the Bills, and there seemed to be no issues.
FLAGS CONTINUING TO FLY
During the first 17 preseason games of 2014, officials called 53 defensive holding penalties, 27 for illegal contact, and 15 more for pass interference. In the four preseason games played on Friday, Aug. 15, there were 86 penalties accepted, a number that doesn't include the ones that were declined.
In their preseason opener, the Steelers were penalized only five times for 34 yards, and that was one of the things Coach Mike Tomlin highlighted as a positive to take from what ended as a 20-16 loss.
Against the Bills, the Steelers were penalized eight times for 74 yards. The Bills were flagged 10 times for 67 yards.