Steelers' defense regains some swagger in win over Bills
A week after surrendering a franchise-high 55 points to New England, the Steelers' defense came within a field goal and meaningless last-second touchdown of pitching a shutout against Buffalo on a cold, windy Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The resurgent defense clamped down on one of the league's best ground games to make life miserable for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. They tormented Manuel with a rejuvenated pass rush and were aided by the Bills' curious play-calling in the red zone en route to a 23-10 victory.
“There was no sense of redemption,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “It's (55 points) going to still be on our record, but we certainly took a step forward.”
The defense, which sacked Manuel three times and had five tackles behind the line of scrimmage, held the Bills to 95 yards rushing. More important, the defensive front controlled the trenches and influenced the Bills to throw on third-and-1 instead of pounding the ball at the NFL's 31st-ranked run defense.
“When you play the way the defensive line played today against the run, it helped with play-action passes because we didn't have to worry about the run,” said safety Ryan Clark, whose fourth-quarter interception led to a game-clinching field goal by Shaun Suisham.
The Bills, who last week amassed more than 400 yards of total offense against the Chiefs' top-rated defense, totaled only 227 yards.
Also, Buffalo couldn't take advantage of good field position on its first three possessions.
The Steelers' defense slammed the door each time, allowing only a 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 Buffalo lead after Jarius Byrd returned a Ben Roethlisberger interception to the Steelers' 29.
“It's the difference in the game when you give up only three points as opposed to seven — especially when they get into the red zone,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “We didn't have to run blitzes against their run, so we were able to stop them with our base packages, which allowed the guys on the back end to make plays.”
“It's not how you start but how you get off the field,” said Heyward, who recorded a sack for a second straight game after getting shut out in the previous seven. “We're going to be put in some tough situations, but fortunately we responded.”
The Bills aren't as explosive as the Patriots, but the Steelers' defense was in need of a shot of adrenaline after getting humbled in New England.
The Steelers insisted they didn't prepare any differently for the Bills than they did for New England. Yet, the Bills' offense appeared confused by a defensive game plan that kept the sometimes-elusive Manuel in the pocket and denied Buffalo's speedy receivers any room to catch the quick passes that usually ignite the air game.
Indeed, the Steelers' defense seemingly played with a sense of urgency.
“I like to think we have a sense of urgency no matter what the circumstances are,” Polamalu said. “We were able to stop the run, and when we can do that, we're at our best.”
The defense, too, didn't feel as much pressure because the offense stubbornly stuck with a ground game it had abandoned when falling behind this season.
“Whenever you run the ball and control the ball the way our offense was able to do, it gives you an opportunity to play solid defense,” Clark said. “We didn't have to press in any way to create plays. Everyone was able to do their jobs.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- QB Smith is chief concern for Steelers’ defense
- Steelers lookahead: Chiefs’ Charles injured but remains dangerous threat
- Steelers offense finding an unprecedented balance when it counts
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin unaware of mumps outbreak in NHL
- Red-zone defense helps Steelers hang on against Falcons
- Steelers Film Session: Falcons find way to limit Bell’s production
- Steelers hold off the Falcons to keep moving in AFC North chase
- Steelers notebook: Pass rush still seeks spark from rookie Tuitt
- Steelers notebook: ‘Killer B’s’ set team records in victory