OPINION: Steelers at Bills: Sal's keys, notes and stats

Both teams have a combined 20-4 record this season

The Buffalo Bills look to take another step towards a 2020 playoff berth and their first divisional title in 25 years when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

Here are my three keys to the game, plus notes and stats:

1.) Stop the Steelers' shorties

The Steelers throw a lot of short passes.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 29th in the NFL averaging only 6.42 yards per-attempt. He’s last among qualifying quarterbacks averaging only 4.65 air yards per-completion. Moreover, according to Pro Football Focus, despite being tied for the fourth-most attempts 20-plus yards downfield with 60, Roethlisberger has only completed 14 of them, which is tied for 14th in the NFL.

The Bills need to sit on and take away the short stuff and force Roethlisberger to try to beat them downfield.

2.) Banged up middle

The Steelers are missing some key players on defense, especially at inside linebacker, where Avery Williamson and Marcus Allen should be starting in place of the injured Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, and Vince Williams, who is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Pittsburgh will also be without starting cornerback Joe Haden due to a concussion, and the Steelers recently lost outside linebacker Bud Dupree for the season with a torn ACL.

The Bills haven’t run the ball all that well this season, but Sunday presents an opportunity to try to get back to doing that. That would then possibly slow down a terrific pass rush, and therefore give Josh Allen a little more time to throw, as well.

3.) Slow down Watt and Company

Even without all of their usual defensive pieces, the Steelers will most likely stay true to who they are and try to get after Allen when he drops back.

According to Pro-Football Reference, they’ve blitzed on 40.2% of their defensive snaps this season, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Defensive end T.J. Watt is second in the NFL with 12.0 sacks, only 0.5 behind the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald for the league lead. Stephen Tuitt is tied for eighth in the league with eight sacks. That’s 20 between the two. Both players can make teams alter their game plan if they start getting loose.

The Bills had trouble dealing with Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa a couple weeks ago. He collected three sacks. They can’t let that happen again.

Buffalo needs to have a plan to slow down Watt and Tuitt. Quicker passes and an effective run game (see above) could do that to keep them a bit on their heels.



Follow me on Twitter: @SalSports

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