E.J. the Rookie
It's cliche to suggest it each time, but the Steelers win the vast majority of games they take on a rookie quarterback. The No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, E.J. Manuel, will get the start for the Bills in Week 10, taking on a Dick LeBeau-coached defense that creates confusion and sometimes panic among inexperienced passers. Pittsburgh defeated a good Jets team with fellow rookie Geno Smith under center earlier this year.
The Steelers will focus hugely on slowing down Buffalo's outstanding running game - something they used to be able to do at a high level. Stopping the run will force the Bills to put the ball in the air, where they can attack and create turnovers. The pressure will be on the rookie quarterback who hasn't played in a month. The Steelers had some screws to tighten after getting pasted on the road against the Patriots in Week 9, but Buffalo does not have the kinds of playmakers in the passing game New England does.
Buffalo's defensive line is, talent wise, one of the best in the NFL, and running the football won't come easy for the Steelers. Expect them to use 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) often, looking to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in shotgun and try to pick apart match-ups, running the ball when they can get Buffalo's defense to drop further back against the pass.
Steelers right guard David DeCastro will return after a one-game absence (ankle), giving the Steelers' depleted offensive line a boost in their protection scheme. He's had an outstanding season to date, and can help create some space to carve through a lane or two for running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers are averaging 87 yards a game with Bell, compared to the 51 yards a game they were getting before he assumed the feature back role.
Buffalo has something of an issue beating the Steelers. Losers of four straight and eight of their last nine, the Bills outplayed a more talented Steelers team in 2010, only to watch wide receiver Steve Johnson drop a touchdown pass - all alone in the end zone - in overtime, snatching eventual defeat from the jaws of victory. The Bills have a talented roster top to bottom, and a lack of heath at the quarterback position as well as constant turnovers and sacks allowed have plagued them all season. The Steelers can get after Manuel and force those turnovers and sacks, if they're able to stifle Buffalo's running game.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Bills vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- How to watch Pittsburgh's Week 10 game vs. Buffalo
- Preparation, Coaching, and the 2013 Steelers
- Bills vs. Steelers: Antonio Brown digging deep in preparation for Buffalo's soft coverage
- Steelers offensive line is not as bad in pass protection as you might think
- Steelers Troy Polamalu says scrambling ability of E.J. Manuel make Bills offense 'flavor of the week'
- Steelers injury report: Gilbert and Adams questionable, everyone else practices fully