Pittsburgh (WKBW) I was as confident as I had been all season that the Bills were in line for a victory on Sunday. Boy was I wrong.
I'll tell you what. I certainly expected a better performance than THAT, especially against a Steelers team that has been struggling to find answers. It was the Bills that struggled Sunday at Heinz field. A step in the wrong direction
for a team that had shown promise through the first 8 weeks of the season.
Fred Jackson called it the Bills worst offensive performance of the year. He's right. Prior to the final 80 yard drive in garbage time the offense had 147 total yards. That's not going to get it done.
The Bills were sluggish out of the gate. The offense failed to capitalize on some great field position in the first half.
The Bills first three drives started on the Pittsburgh 29, the Pittsburgh 44 and the Buffalo 44. The Bills could only muster three points.
The play of EJ Manuel had a lot to do with that.
The rookie QB failed to provide the offensive spark the team had hoped for in his return. We talked about it on the post game show.. Manuel's struggles went beyond just the normal rust from a four game layoff. It was a step back. He was short on throws. He was long on throws. His accuracy, decision making and timing inside the offense were off. Head Coach Doug Marrone pointed to problems with his footwork after the game. Little went right for the first round pick. Manuel finished the first half 6 of 13 for 43 yards. (Over half of those yards came on his longest completion of the game a 23 catch by Stevie Johnson. ) Manuel finished the game 22 of 39 for 155 yards a touchdown and a pick. He was sacked three times. "I'm not going to let a performance like this take me down", said Manuel after the game."(I'm going to) Stay positive", Manuel continued. It was a disappointing performance for sure. His worst of the season. I'm sure fans would like to see improvement and quickly to regain some confidence that he is the answer at QB. I still think it's too early to say that he is not.
-Manuel would have benefitted from the Bills being able to establish a better running game on Sunday. I'm surprised they were unable to.
The Steelers ranked 31st in the NFL against the run giving up 131.3 yards a contest. The Bills finished with 95 yards. C.J. Spiller averaged
only 2.9 yards a carry on 8 touches. Fred Jackson finished with 55 yards on 12 carries.
-The Bills lost the time of possession battle 35:16 to 24:44. The offense was unable to sustain drives and struggled with execution on third down. The Bills finished 3-for-14 in third down situations.
-I thought the Defense played well in spots. I liked the pressure the Bills were able to get on Ben Roethlisberger. Jerry Hughes finished with two of the Bills four sacks on the day. I was surprised the Bills didn't do better against the run. The Steelers nearly rushed for double their season average with 136 yards on the day. Pittsburgh ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing entering Sunday with 73.6 yards a contest.
-Stephon Gilmore still isn't right. Gilmore struggled in coverage on several occassion on Sunday. Gilmore vs. Antonio Brown was our "Matchup to Watch"on Bills All-Access live. Gilmore got off to a tough start. He was called for holding on the Steelers first pass of the game. He missed a tackle on Jericho Cotchery for a gain of 26 later in the drive. He was also beaten for a touchdown by Cotchery later in the second quarter. Gilmore was in coverage on a 40 yard gain by Brown in the third quarter. Gilmore showed the ability to be an elite corner as a rookie. He has struggled to get back into form after missing the first part of the season with a broken wrist.
-Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone said he wanted to play for field position and believed he would still get several more posessions when he decided to punt the ball down 10 with 14:15 to play. The Bills faced 4th and 5 from the Steelers 36 and Marrone added he didn't have a ton of confidence in the offense at that point
I don't blame him for the lack of confidence, but going for it and converting in that situation could have provided a spark for an offense that needed it.. The Bills gained 25 yards in field position on the punt.