Steelers start slow, then roll, 38-7


Steelers' record: 2-1
One year ago: 2-1
Preseason series record: Steelers lead, 7-2

This is what Coach Mike Tomlin said he was looking for from his team during this third preseason game, the closest thing there is to a full dress rehearsal for the opening of the regular season: "Can they execute the minute details of a legitimate game plan, a legitimate week's worth of preparation. Can they execute with the detail that represents that. During the first two preseason games, we're focused on getting better, and getting better for us is Steelers vs. Steelers. In this football game we concentrated on a week of development of a plan centered around what Buffalo does, and the tape better represent that. That's what we're looking for from the guys."

The Steelers looked to have little life throughout a first period in which their offense had no points and only one third-down conversion, and it was a takeaway that changed the momentum. Lawrence Timmons stripped the ball from C.J. Spiller and Ziggy Hood recovered at the Buffalo 18-yard line. Five plays later the Steelers tied the game on a 2-yard run by Isaac Redman, and they were in control throughout the remainder of the game.

The Steelers offense came into the game having converted only 1-for-6 in the red zone. In the first half, the first unit was 2-for-2 in the red zone, with the touchdowns coming on a 2-yard run by Isaac Redman and a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown.

* On a second-and-10 early in the second quarter, Chris Carter looped to the inside to sack Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then on third down, pressure by Cameron Heyward forced a quick throw that was incomplete and the Bills decided to punt.

  • On the Bills' next possession, with just less than 11 minutes left in the first half, Lawrence Timmons stripped the ball from RB C.J. Spiller, and Ziggy Hood recovered at the Buffalo 18-yard line.
  • The Steelers offense capitalized on the takeaway with a tying touchdown that came on a run by Isaac Redman on a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Powering over the left side, Redman ran through tackles by DT Marcel Darius and ILB Kelvin Sheppard to squeeze into the end zone.
  • Jonathan Dwyer is not considered the best receiver among the team's running backs, but he made the biggest play of the first half for the Steelers offense. On a third-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 3-yard line with 1:36 left in the first half, Dwyer ran a wheel route down the left sideline, and Roethlisberger – who had plenty of time on the play to find a receiver – went to him and the third-year pro from Georgia Tech got his body turned around and made the catch over LB Nick Barnett for a 33-yard gain.
  • Two plays after making that 33-yard catch, Dwyer caught another pass, and even though it gained only 7 yards this time, Dwyer showed good situational awareness by breaking a tackle to get out of bounds and preserve the Steelers' final timeout of the half.
  • Call it Troy being Troy. On the second play of the second half, Polamalu undercut a route down the left sideline and intercepted Vince Young's first pass of the game, which was intended for FB Dorin Dickerson. That gave the Steelers the ball at the Buffalo 39-yard line.
  • There aren't many in the league who throw a prettier pass than Byron Leftwich, and he got a chance to show off his right arm on the play immediately following Polamalu's interception. The pass was a pretty 39-yard strike to Brown for a touchdown, but the play never has a chance to happen if Dwyer doesn't step up and cut the pass rusher who was closing in on Leftwich.
  • Robert Golden, a safety with decent coverage skills, showed those off in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a sideline pass from Vince Young to WR Kamar Aiken and returned it 47 yards to the Bills 8-yard line to set up the Steelers' fourth touchdown.
  • That fourth touchdown came on a slip screen to WR Derrick Williams, and it doesn't get into the end zone without nice blocks from LT Mike Adams and TE Weslye Saunders.

* It certainly was not the kind of start the Steelers had hoped to get from their offense. Antonio Brown dropped a pass on first down, a completed pass to Jerricho Cotchery gained nothing, and then Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by Mario Williams after pressure from Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay. And it was on that play where David DeCastro injured his right knee.

  • Catch the ball. The Bills' first third-down situation of the game provided the Steelers defense with exactly what the unit looks for in those situations. Lawrence Timmons shot though a gap in the Bills' protection, and his hit on Ryan Fitzpatrick caused a flutterball that Larry Foote tipped into the air. The ball floated into LaMarr Woodley's waiting hands, and he dropped it.
  • All things considered, the Steelers' second offensive possession was worse than the first. Roethlisberger and Emmanuel Sanders weren't on the same page on one of those back-shoulder throws on first down; Isaac Redman gained 2 yards on second down and sustained a stinger on the play that sent him to the sideline briefly; and Chris Rainey dropped a pass on third down on a play on which David DeCastro injured his right knee.
  • The Bills were looking at a third-and-17 from their own 7-yard line late in the third quarter, when Vince Young dumped the ball to RB Tashard Choice, who took advantage of a missed tackle by Will Allen to get enough yards for the first down.

Following the game, Coach Mike Tomlin characterized the knee injury sustained by David DeCastro as "potentially serious." He will have an MRI for a more conclusive diagnosis.

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