The Bills haven't won in Pittsburgh in over 20 years! Will it change on Sunday? Well, let's ask the guys over at the Blitzburgh blog to dish the dirt on Pittsburgh. Enjoy and tell a friend.
1) So how do you guys feel about the Steelers so far this year?
I could just answer this one with a picture of an empty whiskey bottle, honestly.
2) If you were the opposing offense and defense, how would you attack the Steelers?
Well, the offensive game plan should be easy: Do pretty much whatever you feel like doing, and you'll score. The Steelers' defense was turned in the worst performance in franchise history last week, surrendering 55 points for the first time ever. As John McKay once said, "can't stop a pass, or a run. Otherwise we're in great shape." So, holes will probably be there to run through, and if they aren't, Ike Taylor has a concussion and Ryan Clark is really bad at what he does, so just throw to wherever Troy Polamalu isn't.
The defense could have a tougher day, as the recent 31-point outburst from the Steelers suggests they're figuring something out. The best thing any defense can do, in my opinion, is get to the quarterback, and the good news for the Bills' pass rushers is that the Steelers give up sacks. Focus on Marcus Gilbert (and if he gets on the field, Mike Adams) and you're going to get to Ben Roethlisberger.
3) When I look over your team stats, I'm shocked to see how bad your running game and stopping the run have looked this year. What is the reason for this?
Losing Rashard Mendenhall hurt more than a lot of people want to admit. Any back can be the product of a good offensive line, but a true talent can make things happen even in the absence of great blocking in front of him. The good news is that Le'Veon Bell seems to be recovered from the foot injury that kept him out for the first few weeks and the running game has improved with him carrying the load. He isn't exactly a game-changing feature back you can center your offense around, but he's talented enough to pick up some first downs and keep drives moving, which is really all the Steelers should need from their running backs. As for stopping the run, losing Larry Foote means more than people think.
He wasn't the tackling machine James Farrior was or the pass rusher James Harrison was, but he hit blockers hard enough to sort of direct the running game somewhere else, where another teammate would be waiting. The linebackers aren't generating that kind of disruption this year.
4) How impressed are you guys with Antonio Brown? Why has he been so affective?
Antonio Brown has been phenomenal for a couple of years now. He has great chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger, and he's willing to make tough catches in traffic. He has soft hands and quick feet. It's pretty clear that teams passed on him in the draft because of his stature, but the dude can play football. He also doesn't whine for penalties all the time and demand more passes like way too many wide receivers in the NFL, which is a quality of Brown's that's appreciated in Pittsburgh. Plus, have you seen the dude smile? That's a top-5 smile, easy.
5) You guys only have 13 sacks this year. You always think of Pittsburgh defenses being able to get after the QB, why hasn't that happened?
Dick LeBeau's zone blitz boils down to this recipe: defensive lineman take up as many blockers as they can, and linebackers swarm behind them and dart in from different directions to confuse the offense and generate pressure. The defensive backs just need to hold coverage long enough for that to happen. None of those units is getting it done this year. With so many new faces in the front seven this year (linemen Cam Heyward and Steve McLendon, backers Vince Williams and Jason Worilds), it just hasn't clicked for them all yet. Jarvis Jones is still a little bit raw to throw into the mix, but it is absolutely critical to this team's future that he becomes that next great outside linebacker.
6) Is Todd Haley ever going to get fired? I mean, Big Ben hates him, right?
The Todd Haley situation is curious. Offensive coordinators are demonized in most NFL cities because kids grow up playing Madden now and think that's all there is to the job. It's not the most exciting offense, save for the odd end-around pass or wildcat run, but the short chunks of yardage they pick up is good for sustaining long drives when the players execute properly. As for Ben and Haley's relationship, I have two thoughts: First, Ben is a drama queen and needs to buck up and do what the coaches tell him to. Second, your quarterback and your OC have to trust each other and get along if they want to have any success. Haley has only been here two years, and for a franchise that values stability on the coaching staff, I find it tough to believe they'll oust Todd Haley that quickly.
7) Are there any under the radar players that Bills fans should keep an eye on?
If Jarvis Jones manages to play on Sunday, watch him. Like I said before, he's still a little bit raw, but he has explosive talent. This is even more true of fellow rookie Shamarko Thomas, the undersized safety from Syracuse with a chip on his shoulder. Besides having awesome first names, both of these rookies are capable of making splash plays with big hits or turnovers or even just downing punts on special teams. They're the future of the defense.
8) Why does it seem like every year the Steelers give up so many sacks?
Normally, Ben takes a lot of sacks because Ben holds onto the ball for as long as he can. Linemen can't hold blocks for 7-8 seconds while Ben starts scrambling. That's Ben's game though, and as Mike Tomlin once phrased it, "Gun fighters get shot sometimes." We've learned to take the bad with the good regarding Ben's style. This year, though, the offense as an entire unit has struggled, including the line's ability to pass block. It's hard to pin it on one thing, but it's worth mentioning that the offense has found the most success when Ben hits Antonio Brown for quick, short gains.