The Steelers got it handed to them by the Buffalo Bills in Week 5. The offense scored their fewest points of the season despite having their most yards gained, and a banged-up defense looked over-matched from the opening possession. The outcome of this one was determined very early.
Let’s take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers snap counts from their Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills.
The offensive line played the entire game as expected. Of the three sacks surrendered, two were given to the offensive line with Dan Moore Jr. giving up a sack in back-to-back weeks as well as Mason Cole being credited with surrendering his first sack with the Steelers.
The Steelers went back to 2.7 wide receivers per snap like the first three weeks after dropping that number to 2.5 per snap in Week 4. This increase is likely because the Steelers played their tight ends slightly less with 1.3 tight ends/fullbacks per snap. The most likely reason for this was the injury to Pat Freiermuth, although Connor Heyward did increase his snaps as he almost equaled his total from the previous four games combined. After seeing Derek Watt on the field for the first two offensive plays, he only came back on the field for special teams.
The Steelers top three wide receivers saw the next most snaps behind the offensive line and the quarterback. George Pickens was on the field for more than 3/4 of the snaps and led the Steelers in receptions were six. With no Gunner Olszewksi to take up a few of the snaps, Steven Sims was only on the field for three snaps in his place while Miles Boykin continued to see a handful of snaps.
The biggest change not due to injury was Jaylen Warren saw one more snap than Najee Harris. Despite being on the field more, Harris still had more touches than Warren with 14 in total versus nine for the undrafted rookie running back.
On defense, the injuries took their toll on the Steelers secondary despite averaging five defensive backs on the field per play. Tre Norwood was the only defender to see the field for every snap followed closely by Minkah Fitzpatrick. The fact James Pierre saw over 40% of the defensive snaps along with practice squad cornerback Josh Jackson seeing almost half, it was a less-than-ideal situation for the Steelers going up against the Bills impressive air attack with none of their top three cornerbacks by the end of the day.
How the Steelers employed their defensive front was also somewhat different as only 1.9 inside linebackers per snap were used. Even less came with the outside linebackers as they were 1.6 on the field per snap. Where these extra defenders came from, other than the secondary, were on the defensive line where there were 2.5 defenders per snap on the field.
Despite the offense only scoring three points, the defense surrounding 38 points, 31 of which were in the first half and had the game completely put away, is not going to be a recipe for success in winning games. The fact Buffalo scored so quickly on the Steelers, the defense was on the field for less than 14 minutes in the first half. Surrendering the game by not having enough left in the fourth quarter is one thing, but when the defense gives up that many points in the first half there’s not much more the team can do unless the offense can keep pace. Through the first five weeks of the season, it seems neither team is up to the task at this time.