After a highly successful 2020 season, the Buffalo Bills have large expectations for this season. While many experts have referred to the Bills as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, those same opinionators have often agreed that this should be a trying year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So clearly, the Bills were the favorites when the two teams faced off in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.
And THAT is why they play the game…
The Steelers made the key plays in all facets of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – on their way to a 23-16 upset victory over the Bills to open the 2021 season.
Offensively, the Steelers were less than spectacular, but they made the plays when they needed to in the key moments. Ben Roethlisberger completed 18 of 32 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown. Najee Harris, in his first career NFL game, had 45 yards on 16 carries. Diontae Johnson led all receivers with five catches for 36 yards a touchdown, while JuJu Smith-Schuster had four catches for 52 yards.
Buffalo got off to a great start with a huge kick return to open the game. Pittsburgh held them to a field goal, though, converted by Tyler Bass from 37 yards out. It remained just a three point game until the final moments of the second quarter, when Josh Allen capped off a 13 play, 96 yard drive with a three yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis to make it 10-0.
There wasn’t much scoring in the third quarter, as two field goals by Chris Boswell, from 24 yards and 20 yards respectively, brought the Steelers to within a 10-6 score. The Pittsburgh defense was suffocating on a Bills’ offense that didn’t seem quite sharp enough in this first week of the season.
Pittsburgh took the lead for the first time in the game when Roethlisberger hit Johnson for a 4 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, making it a 13-10 score. The Steelers’ lead swelled to 10 points after Ulysees Gilbert III returned Miles Killebrew’s blocked punt 9 yards for a score.
The Bills got back within a touchdown after Bass connected on a 25 yard field goal, but a Boswell field goal from 45 yards down made it a 10 point game once again at 23-13. A 50 yard drive by Allen & Co. stalled out and the Bills settled for another field goal from Bass. A failed onside kick later and the Roethlisberger was kneeling out the final seconds of the game.
This was a huge victory for this Steelers team. Buffalo is certainly one of those teams expected to be in the thick of the Super Bowl hunt at the end of the season, and that could still very well be the case. There are a lot of people that have written off this Steelers’ team before the season even started as a club that will be on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture. Again, that could still be the case as well. But this was an impressive start to the season – beating a top notch AFC opponent away from Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh will open the home part of their schedule next week at Heinz Field against the Las Vegas Raiders. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00pm.
Overall Record: 1-0