The Buffalo Bills dropped their 2021 season opener on Sunday, 23-16, to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.
Although the players are preaching “no panic” following the loss, it’s hard to walk away from Sunday’s game without serious concerns about the Bills' offensive line moving forward.
There were plenty of plays left out on the field for quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills offense. We might be looking at a very different result if Allen doesn’t overthrow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the first half, which would have been a walk-in touchdown.
However, it’s hard not to wonder whether bringing back the same offensive line from 2020 – that struggled mightily, at times – was the best idea.
Allen wasn’t exactly running for his life all afternoon, but holding calls killed several promising drives, including three holding calls on one drive alone early in the first half.
There’s no doubt that the Steelers boast a prolific group across their defensive line. T.J. Watt is the reining Defensive Player of the Year, their offseason addition of Melvin Ingram looks to have paid off, and Cameron Heyward dictated terms at the line of scrimmage.
When you add that all together, you see why the Bills struggled all day to sustain drives.
The biggest concern here is this won’t be the last time the Bills face elite defensive lines this season.
The Washington Football Team has one of the best young defensive lines in football, headlined by the former No. 2 overall pick in 2020, Chase Young. The re-tooled New England Patriots defensive line has a ton of promise this season, the Kansas City Chiefs have Chris Jones, and probably the best defensive line in football is the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The moral of the story is it won’t get any easier as the season rolls along, and the Bills' offensive line is going to have to play better if they intend to make good on a lot of these Super Bowl predictions. Indeed, it’s only Week 1, and it’s important not to overreact from one poor performance. However, you sort of know what you had in this group, and to not look at improving the unit - particularly inside at guard - may prove to be a mishap by Bills general manager Brandon Beane.
Although the offensive line headlined a slew of issues offensively for the Bills on Sunday, Allen also needs to be better. This isn’t new, though.
The Bills offense strung together several performances like the one we saw against the Steelers. The hope in 2021 was that the Bills offense would evolve and become more efficient from drive-to-drive, and we saw no such evolution this week.
Based on Allen’s career success against the Miami Dolphins, there may not be a better opponent to bounce back with on the road next week in South Florida. The Dolphins will throw plenty of man coverage looks at the Bills, which will likely be a welcomed site for a Bills offense that really struggled to execute against the heavy zone looks the Steelers threw at them.