The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 23-10 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday was the sort of tidy, comfortable victory that used to be as much a part of autumn in Pittsburgh as pumpkins and squash.
The Steelers ran for 136 yards and allowed less than 100 rushing yards.
The Steelers forced the Bills to punt on 11 of their 14 third downs.
The Steelers held a rookie quarterback to 155 passing yards, 78 in the first 55 minutes of the game. They sacked EJ Manuel three times, including the first career sack for rookie Jarvis Jones.
This is all stuff Steelers fans have taken for granted.
Until this season.
Hopefully we appreciated and soaked in the Steelers’ dominating performance Sunday, because who knows when it will happen again.
Looking at the Steelers’ remaining schedule, it’s unlikely the defense will get another rookie quarterback to pick on this season.
The Steelers have struggled to get to the quarterback and force turnovers over the past couple of seasons, but at least they still can be relied upon to feast on rookie quarterbacks. They’re 17-2 against them since Dick LeBeau became defensive coordinator in 2004.
The Steelers began a three-game leg of their schedule against Rust Belt opponents Sunday. The Detroit Lions come to Heinz Field next week and the Steelers go to Cleveland in Week 12.
Perhaps it’s apropos, then, that the Steelers faced not only a rookie quarterback but also a rusty one on Sunday. Manuel missed the last four games with a knee injury and didn’t get much help from his receivers, who dropped several passes.
The Bills’ biggest blunder came late in the third quarter. With the Steelers leading 10-3 and lining up for a field goal, Marcell Dareus went offsides. That gave the Steelers a first down, and two plays later Le’Veon Bell ran for his fourth touchdown of the season to give the Steelers a commanding 17-3 lead.
While the Bills (3-7) didn’t help themselves, the Steelers (3-6) earned this win. Every time they’ve allowed less than 100 rushing yards this season, they’ve won.
Jones not only had his first career sack, but his pressure forced Manuel to throw an interception to Ryan Clark. That set up a field goal that put the Steelers up 20-3 with eight minutes left in the game.
Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 67 receptions after catching six passes Sunday. He’s also fifth with 805 receiving yards and returned two punts for 74 yards Sunday.
Jerricho Cotchery caught his fourth touchdown pass in two games and is tied for 10th in the league with six TD catches.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four more times, but not by Mario Williams. The Bills defensive end is tied for third in the NFL with 11 sacks, but the Steelers offensive line kept him away from their quarterback.
Let’s not forget, though, all those problems that plagued the Steelers during their 2-6 start. They didn’t just go away, and next week’s Heinz Field guests are capable of shredding the Steelers defense like the lettuce in a Primanti Brothers gyro.
The Lions are fifth in the NFL in total offense with 410 yards per game and third with 306 passing yards per game.
Matthew Stafford’s 2,836 passing yards are third in the league. Calvin Johnson’s 904 receiving yards are second.
Add in the electric Reggie Bush, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions add to the eight plays of 50 or more yards the Steelers defense has allowed this season.
One of those plays was Matt Forte’s 55-yard run in the Chicago Bears’ 40-23 win at Heinz Field in September.
Would now be a bad time to say that the 6-3 Lions have beaten those Bears twice?
A listless opponent like the Bills is just what the Steelers needed Sunday. They avoided their first 2-7 start since 1988 and restored some pride after their atrocious performance in New England. It was a step in the right direction.
A win over the Lions would be a bigger step in the right direction.