This Sunday, the 7-5 Pittsburgh Steelers have what could very well be the toughest game left on their schedule, as they head up to Orchard Park, NY to take on LeSean McCoy and Buffalo Bills. This game represents a golden opportunity for the Steelers to seize control of the top spot in the AFC North, but in order to do that, they must first shut down Shady McCoy and the Bills vaunted ground game, which is averaging 161.9 yards per game to lead the NFL. Aside from having McCoy to contend with, the defense must also keep a close eye on quarterback Tyrod TaylorMcCullerlf has rushed for 469 yards on the season, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Making matters more difficult is that, in all likelyhood, Javon Hargrave will be unavailable due concussion issues, leaving Daniel McCullers to take up the slack.
Behind LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, the Bills third leading rusher is running back Mike Gillislee, who is averging 5.9 yards per carry on 64 attempts. These three account for 21 of the 23 touchdowns that the Bills have scored on the ground, and for 53% of the Bills total yards from scrimmage this season. Stop these three and you essentially shut down the Bills offense. While the Bills offensive line is outstanding when it comes to run blocking, they’re not nearly as good at protecting Taylor. This explains the 34 sacks they have given up and the cause for most of his rushing yards, from running for his proverbial life. Through the air, Taylor has been mostly a game manager. He does spread the ball around but isn’t a threat to carry an offense like Ben Roethlisberger does, averaging only 6.6 yards per pass. Of the Bills 34 touchdowns on the season, only 11 have come through the air.
The best run defense that the Steelers can provide against Shady and Co. is to just keep them off the field, and the Steelers have the ideal solution for doing just that, LeVeon Bell. Yes, the Steelers have all the weapons they need to put points on the board, but the most important one for this game just might be Bell. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Steelers should be looking to put together those long scoring drives that chew up the clock, and LeVeon Bell is perfect for that. That doesn’t mean being conservative, like the first three and a half quarters of the Baltimore game, no, it means be deliberate, but aggressive. With all the press about how good the Buffalo line is at run blocking, it’s not hard to believe that Pouncey and the boys are chomping at the bit to show just what they got in that department.
With the defense rounding into shape, and the emergence of LaDarius Green on offense, the Steelers are well equipped to go into Buffalo and control this game, especially if conditions are favorable enough for throwing the ball. Playing the role of hunters, the Steelers have a great opportunity, with a victory, to put all the pressure on Baltimore, who play New England up in Foxboro Sunday night, to keep pace with them. If the Steelers can make the Bills one dimensional early, this one could get ugly rather quickly. There is almost nothing better than watching Rex Ryan in the midst of a conniption fit along the sidelines, well except for the one John Harbaugh is sure to be experiencing a few hours later.
The Steelers smell blood in the water. Over the years, they have proven to be much better at playing the role of hunters instead of being the hunted. With the chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the AFC North, they are going to Buffalo with that singular purpose. A focused Steelers defense contains Shady McCoy, while LeVeon Bell rips off another 140 yards of total offense, as the Steelers pull off a 31-17 win.