STEELERS 23, BILLS 10**
Steelers' record: 3-6
One year ago: 6-3
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 15-9
The Steelers began the day ranked 31st in the NFL in run defense, as good as any reason why they also began the day at 2-6. The Bills came in with a running attack where the two primary backs – Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller – had gained 980 yards and were averaging 4.5 a carry despite a rash of instability at quarterback. "Fred Jackson is awesome," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He's got great contact balance, vision, and patience. He's not an easy tackle. His yards after contact are really impressive. C.J. Spiller is a guy you have to worry about containing and keeping within the chute of the defense, because any time he gets it he's capable of going the distance."
RUN IT IN THE RED ZONE
The Steelers still rank 30th in the NFL in red zone efficiency despite going 3-for-4 against the Patriots. The Steelers came into Sunday's game vs. Buffalo having scored 11 touchdowns in 24 trips into the red zone (45.8 percent), and against the Bills they were 2-for-5, which works out to 40 percent. On the two red zone touchdowns the Steelers scored, one came on a 5-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery and the other on a 4-yard run by Le'Veon Bell.
Based on the issues the Steelers have had with injuries along the offensive line, and the fact Bell missed the first three games with a foot injury, their struggles with the running game can be tied to their percentage in the red zone.
"The No. 1 thing is a good, sound running game. A running game is important in football but doubly important in the red zone," said Tomlin. "It creates opportunities. It widens windows. The horizontal windows that are shortened by the lack of vertical field anyway get exposed if you have a good running game and a good play-action game associated with it."
The game was a slog-fest early, with neither team able to generate much offense, and midway through the second quarter the game was a 3-3 tie. The Steelers were awfully efficient on third downs in the first half, and the two they converted on the possession that began with 6:43 left in the first half turned the tide of the game. On a third-and-3, Jonathan Dwyer burst over right tackle for 8 yards; then on the next third down – a third-and-4 – Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Antonio Brown for 24 yards. The possession ended with a touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery, and the Steelers had seized control of the game.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
At the end of the first quarter, Buffalo's running backs tandem of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller had been limited to 18 yards on eight carries, an average of 2.3.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
The halftime rushing statistics reflected the contention that the Steelers were getting the better of the play along the line of scrimmage. The Buffalo running backs duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller had combined for 31 yards on 11 carries, while Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer, and Felix Jones had gained 74 yards on 18 carries.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT III
Through three quarters, Buffalo's Jackson and Spiller had 66 yards on 18 carries, while the Steelers trio of Bell, Dwyer, and Jones had combined for 88 yards on 24 carries.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT IV
Jackson and Spiller finished with 78 yards on 20 carries, while the Steelers' trio of Bell, Dwyer, and Jones finished with 111 yards on 32 carries. The disparity in the totals isn't that dramatic, but the Steelers' ability to bottle up the Buffalo running attack early forced the Bills to turn to rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel more often than they would have liked in his first game back after a month off because of injuries.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT V
Brian Moorman came to training camp with the Steelers in a competition for the punting job with Drew Butler. Moorman was released on Aug. 31 because he seemed to be losing pop in his leg as the preseason wore on. On a day when the winds were gusting to 21 miles an hour at Heinz Field, Moorman averaged 36.9 yards on his nine punts, with only a 24.2 net average.