When the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night, they might feel in some respects that they’re looking in a mirror. They are both teams led by their defense, with a fledgling offense spearheaded by a young quarterback who is making enough plays when he needs to to win games.
The Bills are coming into this game with a 9-4 record. The Steelers are 8-5 by comparison, but have won 7 of their last 8 games. These are two of the top teams in the AFC who have not had the opportunity to lead their division. Buffalo still has some hope of doing so, but Pittsburgh’s chances were officially ended last night.
“This team is very, very much like ours in that they’ve got a really good defense, their offense isn’t quite as good, but they’ve got good receivers and good players on their offense that you’ve got to be alert to”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler told reporters yesterday, via a transcript courtesy of the team’s media department.
“We’ve got to be able to stop their passing game, but we’ve also got to stop the run”, he went on. “It’s no different than it usually is. This is a chance for us to move one step closer to getting the goal that we want, and that’s to get into the playoffs”.
Following the offensive upheaval that overtook the league last year—just one tiny example of that being that there was a 50-touchdown season, and multiple quarterbacks threw for over 5000 yards—this year has largely been less prolific in offensive output, and more teams have been pushing forward with strong defenses.
The Steelers and Bills have been among the chief exporters of quality defense, though it must be said that the New England Patriots may have the best defense in the league, at least going back to the start of the season. The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens may have the most balanced teams, especially after the trade deadline with the respective acquisitions of Emmanuel Sanders and Marcus Peters.
Quite frankly, in recent years, these have been the sorts of teams that have been good enough to force their way into the postseason, but to serve as the sacrificial lamb to some better team in the first round. Think of the Bills’ team a couple of years ago.
Are either Devlin Hodges or Josh Allen good enough to lead their team to victory in the second season? Chances are, they will have to try it from the road.