If the season started right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be completely ready, beating the Buffalo Bills 19-16 and most importantly getting two almost flawless drives by Ben Roethlisberger to start the game, both ending with a touchdown. Things haven’t been going that smoothly for EJ Manuel or the others on his team.
The Bills have yet to get into the end zone with their passing game through three preseason games. Manuel finished with 17-of-27 for 148 yards. The ball moves well most of the time, but when it comes to putting it in the end zone, the Bills suddenly struggle. Manuel was intercepted once by the fantastic Ryan Shazier, the rookie out of Ohio State, picking up 11 tackles during his first half of this preseason.
Roethlisberger, working almost exclusively out of the no-huddle, had no such problems. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 128 yards and a couple of touchdowns: One to Antonio Brown, completing a 76-yard play, and the other to Markus Wheaton for 16 yards just before the end of the first quarter. The communication bit seems to be going very well, and the Steelers made everything seem quick and almost effortless.
More bad news for the Bills, on the other hand. Sammy Watkins, who is doing some incredible stuff during practice but not so much through the games, left the game with bruised ribs, also the work of the energetic Shazier. This means Watkins, the fourth overall pick out of Clemson, might not play for the Bills in their next preseason game, leaving the game before the Bills’ first drive was over.
So while the Bills seem to be stuck in this rebuilding process, hoping to finally come close to the playoffs, something they haven’t accomplished in 15 years, the Steelers are in a different place. They didn’t get a lot from their backup quarterbacks, Landry Jones and Bruce Gradkowski who were both intercepted and completed just 50% of their passes, but overall, on both ends of the field things seem a lot more complete than they did a year ago.
Buffalo? Less solid. Manuel isn’t throwing touchdown passes, but the options of going with Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel aren’t a lot more attractive. There’s some talent when it comes to the pass rush and in the running game, but overall, unless things are coming together under the surface and are simply waiting to come to fruition, this just might be another slightly depressing season for a team that’s forgotten what it feels like to be successful.