There are a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans who are nervous about their Week 14 game against the Buffalo Bills, and rightfully so. The Bills are a tough team who loves to run the football, and a defense who isn’t what it once was, but is still a very solid group. Plus, Pittsburgh takes their show on the road, and you never know what you are going to get when this happens.
To get the lowdown on the upcoming game, I went behind enemy lines to talk with Chris Trapasso, editor of Buffalo Rumblings (SB Nation’s Bills site), to talk about the upcoming matchup. Check out the interview below.
The Buffalo Bills are one of the best rushing football teams in the NFL, but what has been the issue with their passing game?
Few things -- Sammy Watkins has played in four games this season, the past two and the opening games in Week 1 and Week 2. Right before he returned, Robert Woods went down. Beyond that, secondary and tertiary options Greg Salas, Walt Powell, Marquise Goodwin, and even Brandon Tate have missed time. Beyond that, Tyrod Taylor is not the type of passer who can mask a lack of talent in the receiving corps, and isn't very comfortable making throws to his pass-catchers when they're slightly covered. Also, he doesn't utilize the middle of the field as much as other quarterbacks, which hasn't hurt Charles Clay's production. From watching Clay this year, he seems a half-step slower than he did in 2015.
The Bills' defense under Rex Ryan gives off a stigma of being nasty, but they haven't really lived up to that stigma this season. What has been the issue with defense this season? Or are they living up to expectations?
Buffalo's defense isn't bad, but you're right, it certainly has not matched up with Rex Ryan's reputation this year... or last. The main issue comes from miscommunications in the secondary and simply inconsistent play from the defensive backs, especially when it comes to locating and playing the ball in the air. The defensive line and linebackers have been solid for the majority of the season.
If you were to develop a game plan to stop the Bills offense, what would that look like?
Spy Taylor with a linebacker -- I assume Pittsburgh will use the speedy Ryan Shazier -- and do whatever you need to keep him in the pocket. Always keep a safety over the top on Watkins. If possible, get as many men into the box on what appear to be running downs or running formations.
The Bills playoff hopes hang in the balance on Sunday. What are fans saying about Rex Ryan and his future with the organization?
Fans seem to be more accepting of Rex this year than they were in 2015. I think that's because they were so livid with the downturn from the amazing 2014 defense, and the fact that the Bills' offense was reliable just about the entire season. This year, with the injuries and suspensions -- most namely to Marcell Dareus -- I think fans realize (to a certain degree) that, if anything, the Bills have overachieved a bit, and Buffalo is closer to contending than rebuilding and firing Rex would just prolong the drought another two or three years.
What is your gut feeling about how this game will unfold Sunday? You can give a prediction if you'd like
This is a scary matchup for the Bills, for obvious reasons. While the defense was spectacular against Derek Carr and Co. for nearly three full quarters a week ago, the wheels came off in the fourth quarter. However, having Ronald Darby back will obviously help the secondary deal with Pittsburgh's collection of talented pass-catchers. As for Buffalo's offense, I'm interested to see how Taylor plays with Watkins and Woods finally back on the field together. In the end though, I think Pittsburgh wins a tightly contested battle by 3-7 points, mainly due to the its ability to hit the big play and its underrated defense.