Pittsburgh Steelers In Buffalo To Battle Bills
By: Michael Robinson
Friday, August 24, 2012
If the Pittsburgh Steelers first two preseason games are any indication, then Saturday’s night Week 3 contest at the Buffalo Bills will be very closely contested.
Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo will be the site of the kickoff at 7:00 p.m. (ET). The Don Best odds screen lists Pittsburgh as 2-2½ point favorites after opening as 1-point ‘dogs. The total has had more modest movement from 39½ up to 40½.
The Steelers' first game was a 24-23 loss at Philadelphia, a ‘push’ as 1-point underdogs. The game-winner was a 51-yard field goal from Alex Henery with 12 seconds left. Pittsburgh turned the tables last Sunday night versus Indy, getting a 26-24 home win (as 4-point favorites) with a field goal of its own with 20 ticks remaining.
The ‘over’ has easily gone 2-0 after closing at 35 and 38 points respectively.
Coach Mike Tomlin is just 40-years-old, but in his sixth-year and has a Super Bowl title under his belt (2008). He’s used to dealing with distractions and this offseason is certainly no exception with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley and the holdout of speedy receiver Mike Wallace.
Wallace is expected to sign his restricted tender and report to the team this weekend. However, it will be a task just getting him up to speed on Haley’s system by the regular season opener. Ben Roethlisberger has been efficient in the preseason (12-of-17, 133 yards in total) with Antonio Brown a great target, but he needs Wallace once the bullets fly for real.
Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich should see time in the second half this week after sitting out the Indy game. The team let Charlie Batch and Jerrod Johnson presumably battle for the third-string job in that one.
Pittsburgh will need to rely on backup running backs with Isaac Redman (groin) expected to sit and Rashard Mendenhall (knee) definitely out. Jonathan Dwyer looked good last week with 43 yards on just eight carries.
Linebacker has also been a big injury concern with James Harrison and his backup Jason Worilds both out with knee injuries. Chris Carter, a promising fifth round pick out of Fresno State in 2011, has been getting his chance to impress defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
The fiery LeBeau doesn’t care that these are preseason games and will implore his ‘D’ to allow less than the 24-points of the first two contests.
The Bills have big expectations this year after high-profile free agent signings of pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Oddsmakers still put them way behind New England in the AFC East, but they are neck-and-neck with the Jets and a second-place division finish is needed to appease the fans.
Coach Chan Gailey’s guys have lost both exhibition games (1-1 ATS), 7-6 at home to Washington and 36-14 at Minnesota last Friday. Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 8-of-11 for 58 yards in four possessions last week, resulting in seven points.
The competition at quarterback is for the backup position and Vince Young (also a new free agent) moved ahead of Tyler Thigpen after going 8-of-14 for 123 yards vs. Minny. Expect Young to get the majority of the second-half work on Saturday, with Thigpen limited if he plays at all.
Buffalo is 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS in its last seven exhibition games overall. Week 3 of the preseason always means the most to coaches and Gailey really wants a good performance in front of the home fans and against a quality opponent.
Getting cornerback Terrence McGee (knee) back for the first time this preseason will help, but it will take a total team effort to beat Pittsburgh.