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This is an intriguing game between the consistent, steady Pittsburgh Steelers against the upstart Buffalo Bills who made it to the AFC championship game last season. The Steelers are aging and have six starters who are 30 or over including their 39-year old quarterback. Is this there last go around with this core group? On the other hand, the Bills are young and primed for another run at the Chiefs. Let’s break it down.
Quarterback: Pittsburgh banks their hopes on Ben Roethlisberger who is back for his 19th season. He is coming off a great season where he threw for 3803 yards and 33 touchdowns. He took a $5 million pay cut to come back for this season and he is a warrior. Meanwhile, the Bills counter with Josh Allen who was fantastic in 2020, throwing for 4544 yards and 37 touchdowns, and is on his way to becoming a franchise player if he isn’t there already. Advantage: Buffalo
Running Backs: The Bills struggled in the run game a year ago and didn’t do a whole lot to improve things. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for 1168 yards and both return. The Steelers allowed starter James Connor to leave in free agency and drafted Najee Harris in the first round to replace him. If he comes through, they think he will be an improvement. Advantage: Neither
Wide Receivers: Pittsburgh has solid receivers in Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool. They are dependable and steady. Buffalo has star power in Stefon Diggs who led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1535). He is joined by Cole Beasley who contributed 82 catches for 967 yards. Advantage: Buffalo
Offensive Line: The Bills were expecting some losses to free agency but when all was said and done, everyone signed and came back. This is a solid group and, if healthy, can be as good as most. Pittsburgh lost longtime center, Maurice Pouncey to retirement and left guard Matt Feller to free agency. So, they are in a bit of transition, with this group. Advantage: Buffalo
Defensive Line: Pittsburgh returns all three starters from a group that was among the best in the league last year. Pro Bowler Cam Heyward is showing no signs of slowing down and Stephon Tuitt has 11 sacks in 2020. Buffalo struggled upfront last season and are revamping things again in 2021. Advantage: Pittsburgh
Linebackers: The Bills thought Matt Milano would leave after last season, but were pleasantly surprised when he opted to return. He will join Tremaine Edmunds who led the Bills with 119 tackles. The Steelers lost Bud Dupree to free agency but are still strong with T.J.Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Devin Bush. Advantage: Neither
Secondary: Pittsburgh has some holes to fill in the secondary but still have All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety and Joe Haden at cornerback coming off a strong season. Buffalo signed Tre’Davious White to a contract extension and the safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are as good as any. Advantage: Buffalo
Coaching: Sean McDermott will be entering his 5th season as the Bills’ head coach and he has presided over the building of this team. He has done a great job and has a record of 40-29. The Steelers have a fixture in head coach Mike Tomlin, who will be starting his 15th season as the head honcho in Pittsburgh. He has a lifetime record of 153-86-1 and has been a stabilizing force. There are a few people who think he is on the hot seat but that is debatable. Advantage: Neither
The Steelers are as steady as they come and they will be ready for the opener. They aren’t as good as the Bills but they have plenty of weapons and Roethlisberger is always a threat. The Bills will be out to prove that they aren’t going to be a flash in the pan. Buffalo is getting 6.5 points and that is a reasonable line.
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