By Danny Cox
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a fierce battle with the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot in the AFC North. The Steelers will look to extend their three-game win streak when they face the Buffalo Bills in a big AFC matchup on Sunday. The Bills came close to pulling off an upset against the Oakland Raiders in week 13, so the Steelers will need to prepare for a tough road game against a dangerous Bills team.
Buffalo Bills Season Record: 6-6
Buffalo started the season with two straight losses before going on a four-game win streak, which included routing the Cardinals, Rams, 49ers and Patriots. After that, it was a three-game losing streak followed by a two-game win streak. The Bills have been inconsistent, but have enough weapons to wreak havoc against any opponent.
Bills On Offense
Tyrod Taylor can be tough to defend. He is a mobile quarterback who also spreads the ball around to players, such as Robert Woods and Charles Clay. It’s obvious that the absence of wide receiver Sammy Watkins truly hurt the Bills’ offensive production this season. However, Watkins is back and his return will give the Steelers another big target to defend.
Still, this offense lives and breathes around running back LeSean McCoy. He has 174 rushing attempts for 949 yards and 35 receptions for 236 yards to give him more than 200 offensive touches. He also has 10 total touchdowns (9 rushing, 1 receiving) to lead the team. It’s simple – stop McCoy and the Steelers will stop a huge portion of the Bills’ offense.
Bills On Defense
The Bills may not have a lot of recognizable names, but they certainly have a lot of playmakers on defense. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is tied for third in the league with 10 sacks this season. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has a career-high four interceptions through 12 games. Along with Gilmore, Ronald Darby has 10 passes defended in 2016.
They have a lot of big-time talent, but they seem to fade out when the team gets a big lead. That’s one of the issues they experienced in their loss to the Raiders this past weekend, but far from their only one. Buffalo has weaknesses on defense and Ben Roethlisberger will have the opportunity to identify and expose them come Sunday.
Bills Players To Watch: WR Justin Hunter and LB Zach Brown
The Bills have a number of talented wide receivers and Taylor is generous when it comes to spreading the ball around, but one wide receiver who the Steelers will need to watch is Justin Hunter. If Hunter is in the game, it’s likely the Bills will be looking his way because he is typically used in red zone packages. He has eight receptions this season and has tied his career-high with four touchdowns. The Bills have been impressed with his performance and look to expand his role, which could cause trouble for the Steelers’ defense.
Linebacker Zach Brown, who is leading Buffalo with 116 combined tackles this season, a career high, is certainly someone to watch Sunday. He has three sacks, nine total tackles for loss and two forced fumbles, which has solidified his role as a defensive leader and playmaker. Brown is all over the field and always in the right place at the right time for the Bills defense.
After an impressive performance against the Giants, the Steelers have brought themselves back into the AFC playoff race and proved they are true contenders. They must keep winning and that starts with a victory over the Bills Sunday. The Steelers must prepare to face a desperate Bills team at their best in order to ensure a victory.