That wasn’t how I envisioned opening day going for the Buffalo Bills.
Didn’t think I’d have to pull out the “it's only one game” card after the first game of the season. I knew Pittsburgh’s defense was good, one of the best the Bills will face this season, but I didn’t believe they would win their matchup against the Bills offense that decisively.
I’ll get to that in just a bit.
There were three big plays in the game, and all three went in Pittsburgh’s favor. Two of the three did not involve the Bills offense, but a bad performance from the offensive line and an off day by quarterback Josh Allen are clearly the main reasons why the Bills are 0-1 to start the 2021 season.
While there is plenty to analyze from this game, you can focus in on three key moments.
Leading 10-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Bills decide to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Steelers' 41-yard line. That was the correct decision, but the play call left a lot to be desired, as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll eschewed using his 237-pound quarterback on a sneak. Instead, he had Allen flip the ball backwards to running back Matt Breida. Pittsburgh stopped the play and the Bills came up empty.
On the following drive by the Steelers, the Bills had them stopped with a three-and-out, but cornerback Levi Wallace was called for pass interference on a 3rd-and-7 play. Pittsburgh would finish that drive with a touchdown that put them ahead for good.
The final critical moment that did the Bills in was the punt block returned for a touchdown that gave Steelers a 10-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play. You might not think a 10-point deficit would be hard to overcome based on the Bills' 2020 offense, but the way the unit looked on Sunday it felt like they were down 21 points at the two-minute warning.
Allen was clearly off his game, and, perhaps, in large part due to the offensive line getting manhandled by the Steelers' pass rush. The Bills could not stop T.J. Watt, Melvin Ingram and Cameron Heyward, who alone was credited with 10 quarterback pressures.
Allen didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, and that might explain a number of throws that were off target.
Pittsburgh did a great job of taking the big play out of the Bills' passing offense. They were giving up shorter passes and rallying to the ball to prevent any significant yards after the catch. The Steelers took the explosiveness out of the Bills' passing game.
Allen also left some big plays on the field, most notably what should have been a touchdown pass in the first quarter to a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders around the Steelers' 10-yard line. Allen overthrew him by five yards.
When all is said and done, we are talking about a Bills offense that produced just one touchdown out of 11 drives. They went 1-for-4 in the red zone, were 1-for-3 on third down, gave up three sacks and lost one of their four fumbles. The Bills ran 24 more plays than the Steelers, but only managed to score the same number of offensive touchdowns - one.
Just remember, it's only one game.