Preseason Week 3 Analysis: Routing the Bills

Before the Steelers take on the Panthers for their final preseason matchup, I thought I’d touch real quickly on how the team looked in their 38-7 rout of the Bills last week.

As always, I’m separating this up into the good and the bad, of which there was plenty of both against Buffalo:

The Good

Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown

I group these two together because it’s difficult to separate their brilliance. Through all of the Mike Wallace controversy (which predictably ended when the real money started to come into play), I wasn’t worried, and it’s because of these two. I love Wallace, and having the deep threat that he provides is absolutely invaluable, and even uncommon for the Steelers. But make no mistake; Brown is the better receiver, and Ben clearly connects with him more. If the team had been forced to go into the year with Brown as the number one and Emmanuel Sanders as the number two, the offense certainly wouldn’t have been as dynamic, but it would’ve worked just fine. The pair proved that in Buffalo, as Brown recorded 7 catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, with one TD coming from Roethlisberger. Brown only grabbed two touchdown catches last season, but that isn’t a true representation of his value in the red zone, and I expect that number to jump in a big way this coming year. With Wallace playing catch up after all that missed time (although, contrary to what Jerry Rice says, it doesn’t take too much practice time to remember how to run past the secondary and catch deep balls), Brown will be Ben’s primary target in the opening games, and that doesn’t worry me one bit.

The Bad

The offensive line

It’s annoying that I have to keep harping on it, but even after all the attention it got in the offseason, it still isn’t where it needs to be. Yes, the Bills have an intimidating defensive front, but the first team unit still allowed Ben to get sacked twice on the day. And then, on top of all that, David DeCastro injured his MCL and will miss at least half the season. He’s already a rookie that naturally needs playing time in a pro offense, and even if he can come back this year, there’s no way he’ll be as effective as the team was hoping, at least until next season. It looks like the revolving door on the line will continue, especially given that the team was ecstatic to see the return of Max Starks, which does not bode well for the immediate future of Mike Adams’ development. Sadly, it looks as if Trai Essex will be a significant part of the line once more. My hat is certainly off to Trai; it takes an odd kind of talent to be so bad at your job, yet consistently get big opportunities from your boss, but that doesn’t exactly make me hopeful for Ben staying upright this season.

It was nice to see the Steelers bang out such a convincing win, especially on the road against a team that most would call “on the rise,” but there are still plenty of things to fix. Tonight’s game will wrap up any remaining bottom of the depth chart questions, and then, it’s on to Denver.

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