One year after their 0-4 preseason start, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally found a way to win enough preseason quarters, beating the Buffalo Bills 19-16 on Saturday.
It wasn’t a game without concerns. While the Steelers starting offense scored on two of three first-half possessions, the second-team offense struggled to move the ball unless they were handing it back to the Bills. Fortunately, the Bills offense got more from their kicker than their dink-and-dunk attack.
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham missed his first extra-point since it was moved back to the 15-yard line. Suisham was operating with a new snapper after veteran Greg Warren was injured this week in practice.
And whether it was by design or not, Suisham’s short kickoff to start the game gave kick returner C.J. Spiller enough time to scamper to the 42-yard line on their first possession. Eleven plays and 44 yards later the Bills were up 3-0.
Punter Brad Wing had another game with positives and negatives. He had three punts of 50 yards or more, with great hang time. He still struggled with consistency– twice setting up the Bills in good field position with punts that had more hang time than distance.
Brad Wing Punting Stats vs Buffalo Bills
|Punt Yards||Buffalo Bills Starting Field Position||Punt Return (Yards)|
Backup QB Landry Jones again failed to convince that he is worthy of an NFL roster spot. Head coach Mike Tomlin gave Jones the opportunity to show what he has by playing in front of top backup Bruce Gradkowski.
What Jones had was two turnovers and just two completed passes (2 for 5, 53 yards). He did not get much time behind a dismal back-up offensive line but it’s hard to dig for the positives in his performance.
Jones best series started with a bubble screen to Dri Archer, who sped 39 yards before being caught. He then hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a short gain. He fired an end-zone throw to Martavius Bryant but Bryant was held. Had Bryant not been stopped, Jones would have had his first TD of the year.
But as we have come to expect with Jones, there was more bad than good. A play later, Jones’ internal clock failed to go off and the Bills forced a fumble, taking over his best drive of the night.
Rookie wideout Bryant continues to get open for whichever QB is under center. He also has fumbled and dropped balls but his potential as a big target with speed keeps us watching and hoping. He caught two of five passes thrown his way on the night.
And then there is the Steelers’ top free-agent signee, free safety Mike Mitchell. Mitchell had one big play and garnered a taunting penalty on one of his two tackles. The sideline conversation with coach Dick LeBeau after the penalty appeared to be another lesson for the new star pupil.
Starting corner Cortez Allen had a better outing in Week 2, yet he is still giving too much cushion on the outside, resulting in several short gains in front of him. He was also flagged for hands-to-the-face on Sammy Watkins.
They’ll take the win. But for special teams, secondary starters Allen and Mitchell, and back-up QB Jones, Game 3 had better find them taking care of business.