The Bills offense is going to be getting a spark as they return with their 1st round pick EJ Manuel. Manuel has been out the past 4 games due to a knee sprain he suffered against the Cleveland Browns. The timetable was supposed to be out for 6-8 weeks but he yet again shows to be a quick healer and is back sooner than expected. The Bills will need him, as against the Kansas City Chiefs they played Jeff Tuel who looked like he had no business starting. What EJ will do is give the Bills a vertical passing threat that has been lacking in recent weeks and with the return of Marquise Goodwin, that vertical weapon exists.
The key for the Bills gameplan is to run the ball and run it some more. They currently are averaging 145.8 ypg rushing and will be facing a Steelers defense that is 31st in the NFL against the run with only the sad Jaguars worse. CJ Spiller looks healthier than recent weeks and he and Fred Jackson will give a good 1-2 knockout punch against the Steelers who just gave up 197 yards rushing to the New England Patriots. A strong running game will allow the Bills to dictate the game and make it be on their terms, not the Steelers.
With EJ back, the passing game will get a boost and have a vertical element that has been desperately needed in recent weeks. However, the key will be the connection EJ will have with his receivers. Early in the year he had a tendency to overthrow receivers or miss them short due to him not having enough of a connection with them. Being out for a few weeks may have hurt the connection he has had earlier and this could lead to primarily short passes early on. Hopefully Nathaniel Hackett does a similar gameplan he had the last week with Jeff Tuel by throwing it on 1st downs and getting his QB in a rhythm. Getting EJ comfortable by throwing some screens and high percentage passes will then allow him to use his secret weapon which is the deep ball. Going off play-action will make the over-aggressive Steelers bite on the run and allow EJ to hit his guy deep for a TD! Big plays will be crucial as they will allow the Bills to score points in bunches and maybe score more than 30 points for the 1st time all year.
The defense will be facing a great QB in Ben Roethlisberger who is just coming off a 400 yard passing day against the Patriots. The passing game will be the only worry for the Bills as the Steelers do not have a run game. Currently they are 28th in the NFL in rushing averaging 73.6 ypg. This is great news for the Bills. A lack of running game will force the Steelers to throw it and give the ferocious Bills pass rush led by Super Mario Williams a picnic of sacks. The Steelers have given up 32 sacks, only the Miami Dolphins have given up more and this spells doom for the Steelers. A healthy secondary will also shut down the few weapons Big Ben has and when he isn’t running for his life, will be forcing it into coverage and lead to turnovers and more doom.
This will be a big game for the Bills and should go a long way towards making people give them the respect they deserve. The return of EJ will give this team a giant boost, a boost they desperately need as they try to go on a 7-0 streak to end the year and hopefully make the playoffs. A strong running game and a game manager in EJ with the occasional big play will allow the Bills to escape Pittsburgh with the win. If they lose, more than likely they will be stuck watching college basketball in January.
Side Note: This weekend there are some very important games in college football. FSU tries its hardest to win the National Title and make every pundit’s hair light on fire (except Lee Corso because he is awesome). Miami needs to whoop Virginia Tech which should be easy since it’s Virginia Tech but Miami never makes anything easy. In case Oregon doesn’t lose to Stanford, LSU needs to show Nick Saban whose boss and whoop the Tide. If both of those happen and if Jimbo Fisher doesn’t do his best Les Miles impersonation, FSU should be holding the Crystal Ball in Pasadena come January. Go Noles!
Written by ArcherNoles