Steelers set to face Bills for 4th consecutive season
PITTSBURGH (1-3) at BUFFALO (3-1)
Sunday 1 p.m. EDT, CBS.
OPENING LINE: Bills by 14, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Pittsburgh 1-2-1; Buffalo 2-2.
SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 17-11.
LAST MEETING: Steelers beat Bills 23-16 on Sept. 12, 2021, in Buffalo.
LAST WEEK: Steelers lost to Jets 24-20; Bills beat Ravens 23-20.
STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (30), RUSH (23), PASS (28), SCORING (23).
STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (24), PASS (21), SCORING (15).
BILLS OFFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (12), PASS (2), SCORING (5).
BILLS DEFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (3), PASS (1), SCORING (2).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers plus-1; Bills plus-2.
STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Kenny Pickett. The rookie will make his first NFL start against the Bills after being inserted in the second half of last week’s loss to the New York Jets for the struggling Mitch Trubisky. Pickett ran for two touchdowns against the Jets but also threw three interceptions, including an ill-advised heave toward the sideline that set up New York’s game-winning drive.
BILLS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Devin Singletary. With the Bills down two receivers to injuries Jake Kumerow (high ankle sprain) and Jamison Crowder (broken ankle), Singletary has become more involved as a receiver with a combined 13 catches for 125 yards and a TD in his past two games.
KEY MATCHUP: Pickett versus Bills pass rush. Von Miller’s offseason addition has contributed to the Bills leading the AFC and being fifth overall with 13 sacks. It’s on Pickett to avoid third-and-longs and getting the ball out quickly to blunt Buffalo’s pressure.
KEY INJURIES: The entire Steelers starting secondary is banged up. S Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), S Terrell Edmunds (concussion protocol), CB Levi Wallace (ankle) and CB Cam Sutton (groin/hamstring) spent at least a portion of the week on the injury report. CB Ahkello Witherspoon will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. ... DT Cam Heyward (ankle/elbow) and DL Chris Wormley (ankle) were limited earlier in the week but are expected to play. ... The Steelers will be without LB T.J. Watt, who will miss his fourth straight game with a left pectoral injury. ... Bills starting S Jordan Poyer, who returned last week after missing a game with a foot injury, was ruled out with a rib injury. ... TE Dawson Knox was ruled out with injuries to his foot and hamstring. ... Starting DTs Ed Oliver (ankle) and Jordan Phillips (hamstring) are listed as questionable. ... Starting LB Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring), backup WR Isaiah McKenzie (concussion) are also listed as questionable. ... CB Christian Benford (broken hand) and backup WRs Jamison Crowder (broken ankle) and Jake Kumerow (sprained ankle) were also ruled out. ... WR Gabe Davis carries no injury designation after being bothered the past two weeks with an ankle injury.
SERIES NOTES: This is the fourth straight year the non-division, Rust Belt rivals meet, with Buffalo winning two of the past three. ... The Steelers took advantage of a blocked punt returned by Ulysees Gilbert for a touchdown to spark a 23-16 win in the season opener last year. ... The Bills had lost six consecutive meetings and 10 of 11 before a 17-10 win over the Steelers on Dec. 15, 2019.
STATS AND STUFF: It’s a meeting of former William & Mary college teammates involving Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and Buffalo’s Sean McDermott. Tomlin, at 50, is two years older than McDermott, and the two played together in 1993 and ’94. ... The Steelers are riding a three-game losing streak after letting a 10-point fourth-quarter lead get away at home against the Jets. Pittsburgh is in danger of its worst start since 2013, when the Steelers dropped their first four games, though the club did rally to finish 8-8 that year. ... The game is the first of a daunting stretch for Pittsburgh against teams with a current combined record of 12-4 (Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia). ... Pittsburgh desperately misses Watt. The Steelers are 0-7 with Watt out of the lineup since selecting him in the first round of the 2017 draft. ... Pickett faces some daunting history in Buffalo. The Steelers are 5-20-1 when a QB makes his first NFL start. ... Pittsburgh’s record with a rookie quarterback since 1970 is a remarkable 25-10, thanks in large part to Ben Roethlisberger going undefeated as a starter (13-0) in 2004. ... The offense has only been part of the problem in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are giving up more than 100 yards per game than they gain ... Pittsburgh’s wide receiver group, considered a strength coming into the season, is still searching for its first touchdown reception. ... Trubisky and Pickett have actually combined for more touchdown runs (three) than touchdown passes (two). ... Buffalo rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Ravens. It marked the 12th time the Bills have won when trailing by 17 or more points, and first since overcoming a 21-0 deficit in a 34-31 win over New England in 2011. ... Buffalo ended an 0-7 skid in games decided by seven or fewer points. ... The Bills improved to 13-11 when allowing 20 or more points since the start of the 2019 season. They were a combined 12-67 from 2011-18 when giving up 20. ... QB Josh Allen scored his 33rd TD rushing against Baltimore, which ranks second among quarterbacks through their first five seasons. Cam Newton scored 43 from 2011-15. ... WR Stefon Diggs leads the NFL with four TDs receiving and is second with 406 yards receiving. In facing Pittsburgh twice since being traded to Buffalo in March 2020, Diggs has combined for 19 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. ... The Bills have combined to outscore opponents 63-7 in the second half this season. The seven points allowed in the second half through the first four games of a season are the fewest since Denver allowed seven over that span in 2009. ... Poyer has an NFL-leading four interceptions despite missing one game with a foot injury. Poyer matched a career best with five interceptions last year. ... Second-year pass rusher Greg Rousseau is tied for fifth in the NFL with four sacks in already matching his output last season.
FANTASY TIP: Start the Bills defense. Buffalo has yet to allow 300 yards this season, and has not allowed 200 yards passing since giving up 240 to Matt Stafford in a season-opening 31-10 win over the Rams. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Bills are 15-2 against quarterbacks with 16 or fewer starts, with those players combining for 11 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and having been sacked 44 times.
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