Sunday afternoon fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers finally got what they wanted, the regular season to begin. A chance for them, and their favorite team, to get the taste of the 2020 regular season out of their mouths. While it was good for the team to be back on the field, the job in Week 1 wasn’t an easy one. The Steelers started their regular season on the road against the AFC power house Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers won the opening kickoff, and chose to defer their possession to the start of the second half. That meant it was Josh Allen and company taking the field to start the first quarter. Isaiah McKenzie took the ball at the goal line and raced 75 yards to put the Bills’ offense in the red-zone. However, Josh Allen wasn’t able to even contribute a first down, and the Bills settled for a Tyler Bass 37-yard field goal to give them an early 3-0 lead.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense took over with 13:30 remaining in the first quarter, and while the drive didn’t equate in points, it was a drive which saw the Steelers near midfield before Pressley Harvin was called upon to flip the field.
The rookie’s punt pinned the Bills at their own 12-yard line to start their second drive, and despite multiple holding calls on the Buffalo offense, Allen was able to string together several first downs before their drive stalled at midfield.
The Steelers’ offense took over at their own 20-yard line with 5:05 left in the first quarter, but a three-and-out gave the ball right back to Buffalo.
After a three-and-out of their own, the Steelers were able to manufacture a drive which carried into the second quarter, but once again had to settle for a field-flipping drive.
Another Steelers’ three-and-out, and a Pressley Harvin 30-yard punt, gave Buffalo the ball at the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. A 3rd down strip sack of Josh Allen by T.J. Watt was recovered by Cam Heyward, giving the Steelers’ offense their best starting field position of the game. The struggling Pittsburgh offensive line was unable to generate a scoring drive, before sending Harvin back on the field for the fifth time in the half to punt the ball away.
Buffalo’s dynamic offense started to warm up on their next possession, and before you knew it the Bills were in scoring range again. After an Allen sneak for a first down inside the 10-yard line, they have a 1st and goal with 39 seconds remaining in the half. An incompletion on first down and an Allen run on second down set up a 3rd and goal from the three yard line. Allen was able to find Gabriel Davis for the touchdown, giving the Bills a 10-0 lead heading into halftime.
Trailing 10-0, the Steelers’ offense received the football to start the second half, and they were able to put together their first scoring drive of the football game. Huge completions to both Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool put the Steelers in the red-zone for the first time in the game. However, a third down pass intended for Najee Harris fell incomplete, forcing a 24-yard Chris Boswell field goal to make the score 10-3 with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
Needing an answer to the Steelers’ first points of the game, Buffalo was able to move the ball on the cusp of field goal range. Facing 4th and 8, the Bills chose to go for it, instead of punting or kicking a field goal. The Josh Allen pass fell incomplete, giving the Steelers good field position for their second drive of the half.
Pittsburgh’s offense continued to move the ball, and took advantage of the good field position. Roethlisberger was able to connect with rookie Pat Freiermuth for a 24-yard gain, and followed that up with a sweep toss to Chase Claypool to get the offense inside the 10-yard line. However, it was another Chris Boswell field goal, this one 20-yards, instead of a touchdown to make the score 10-6 with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
The Bills’ offense continued to move the ball, but the coaching decisions made in the second half left many scratching their heads. After going for it on their previous drive facing a 4th and 8, and failing, the Bills went for it again on 4th and 1. The trick play tried was dropped for a loss and equated in another turnover on downs.
With the ball near midfield, a deep ball intended for Chase Claypool resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty. This put the ball just outside the red-zone, but an 18-yard run by Najee Harris put the Steelers inside the 10. It was a beautiful toe-tapping touchdown by Diontae Johnson which gave the Steelers their first lead of the game.
The Chris Boswell point-after was good, making the score 13-10 with 11:19 left in regulation.
It looked as if Pittsburgh’s defense would be the deciding factor, sacking Allen on third down, but it was Ulysees Gilbert III who came up the middle and blocked the Bill’s punt which was scooped and run into the end-zone for the touchdown.
Before you know it, the Steelers were up 20-10 with 9:45 left in regulation.
Buffalo’s offense, desperately needing a score, didn’t turn to the passing game, but the ground game to move the ball on the Steelers’ defense. With the Steelers having their sub packages in the game, several big plays put the offense into field goal range. But when it mattered most, it was another Buffalo field goal, making the score 20-13 with 5:23 left in the 4th quarter.
Needing a drive to seal the victory, the Steelers didn’t turn to the ground game, but took to the air. Ben Roethlisberger delivered clutch passes to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster to move the ball into field goal range. After a questionable pass on second down, the Steelers had to settle for a 45-yard Boswell field goal to extend their lead back to 10 points. The kick was good, and left the Bills with 2:42 left in regulation, with no timeouts left.
The Bills moved the ball into field goal range, and with 49 seconds left Buffalo decided to get the necessary three points on second down. Pittsburgh recovered the onside kick, and sealed the 23-16 victory.
The Steelers’ win gives them a 1-0 start to the regular season, as they return to Heinz Field in Week 2 to host the Las Vegas Raiders. Be sure to stay tune dto BTSC for the latest news and notes on the black and gold.