In a game that was expected to be the best gauge of where this Buffalo Bills football team is heading into the 2012 season, the answer not surprisingly is somewhere in the middle.
In the only half of the game that mattered with the starters for both teams in for the first 30 minutes of play, the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers turned a C.J. Spiller fumble on his own 19 into a game-tying touchdown.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had been ineffective throughout much of the first half caught fire in the final two minutes, running a no-huddle offence.
He and the Steelers stormed down the field in 1:20, going from his own two-yard line, all the way to paydirt in 11 plays. A lot of no-huddle seemed to knock the Bills, who had been very stingy to that point, off kilter.
The second half was almost all Steelers as they went on for an easy 38-7 win that had the Bills fans leaving in droves midway through the third quarter.
Overall, the defence, particularly the front four looked extremely good in its one half of action. With limited reps together in the first two pre-season games, and even without right defensive end Mark Anderson in the lineup Saturday night, the trio of Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Kyle Williams looked very comfortable.
Mario Williams was credited for the only two sacks by the Bills in the first half but really it could have been anyone on the front line finishing things off. This unit just seems to work well together and it’s only going to get better once Anderson returns.
“Everybody is smoking and it helps everyone out,” Kyle Williams said. “If we are getting around the edge (the QB) is not dropping deep and is stepping up and it gives the inside guys chances. If the inside guys are pushing up the middle, (the QB) is not stepping up and he is dropping deep, it gives us chances. We just play off one another and like I said, keep going vertical and putting pressure.”
About that O-Line
Yes, they are beat up and a couple are playing out of position but if the Bills offence is going to become consistent, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to get a little better protection than he is getting.
Too often Saturday night Fitzpatrick was forced to throw the ball earlier than he wanted. Too often those resulted in incompletions as either the receiver cutthe route short or Fitzpatrick just overthrew his target.
Young hurts his cause
Vince Young didn’t do himself any favours in shoring up his spot as the expected back-up QB to Fitzpatrick.
Young threw an interception on his first pass of the game going across the field in what was either a terrible play call or a poor read by the veteran quarterback.
When Young threw the ball downfield, he looked much more impressive. Early in the fourth he again tried to go across the field and once again was picked off. This time it looked like the Steelers would return it for a major but credit Young for not giving up on the play and making a touchdown saving tackle.
The number three man on the depth chart, Tyler Thigpen, though didn’t even see the field, which likely bodes well for Young’s chances of holding on to his No. 2 status.
The kicking game
Brian Moorman had a sold day punting the football as he repeatedly had the Steelers starting drives from under their own goalposts.
Brad Smith, a guy who made his name running the wildcat offence, was a standout on punt cover special teams as time after time he was one of the first Bills down the field.
Bit of a head scratcher
Bills coach Chan Gailey threw a challenge flag contesting a call that the Steelers had downed a punt on the one-yard line. It turned out he was right, but wouldn’t you want to put your offence in that situation in a pre-season game to see how they would handle it. It’s not like the outcome of the game meant anything to anyone.
The game might prove costly for the Steelers who lost highly touted guard David DeCastro to a knee injury midway through the first quarter. he did not return ... While Fred Jackson had a decent night rushing the ball seven times for 34 yards and a touchdown, it was Tashard Choice (admittedly playing against the Steelers backups) who raised eyebrows.