Steelers Roll In Home Opener, Dispose Of Bills With Ease

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
By Eddie Griffin
Steelers Fever Columnist


Here's an idea of what the game plan must have said for Sunday's game against the Bills.

Casey HamptonOffense: Keep the ball, keep the ball, keep the ball.

Defense: Stop 'em, stop 'em, stop 'em.

For the second week in a row, the Steelers dominated in time of possession and produced another excellent defensive performance in picking up another comfortable win, as they defeated the Bills, 26-3, in the home opener at Heinz Field.

Their ball-control philosophy started from the outset. Pittsburgh took the opening kickoff and marched 58 yards down the field in 13 plays, in an opening drive that took seven minutes off of the clock. The drive stalled inside the 20, but Jeff Reed's first of four first-half field goals made it 3-0.

After Ben Roethlisberger made his only real mistake of the day, an interception on a deep throw to Santonio Holmes on the first play of the next drive, it was back to the ball-control game.

Taking the ball from the 17, the Steelers mounted another long drive, this one a 14-play, 73-yard drive that culminated in Reed's second field goal after nearly eight minutes had been chewed off of the clock.

It was much of the same on the next drive, after Buffalo punted. Big Ben and Willie Parker took 5:10 off of the clock on a 10-play, 56-yard, 5:10 drive that ended with Reed's third field goal.

After all of the ball control, the Steelers effectively used the two-minute drill to pick up a fourth three-pointer just before halftime. It was another double-digit play drive, but it took only 1:23 to move 57 yards before Reed booted his fourth field goal with 18 seconds left before halftime.

In the second half, the Steelers used another time-consuming drive to put the game away. After the Bills had gotten on the board on their opening possession of the half, Roethlisberger drove Pittsburgh right back down the field, going 62 yards in nine plays, and hooking up with Matt Spaeth for a 1-yard score to make it 19-3.

The scoring was wrapped up in the fourth, when Willie Parker put the finishing touches on another 100-plus yard performance with an 11-yard touchdown run with 7:18 left.

The offense kept clicking yet again on Sunday, racking up 420 yards of total offense and 24 first downs. Parker led a rushing attack that gained 184 yards with 126 on 23 carries. Roethlisberger was 21 of 34 for 242 yards. The Steelers' offense was the picture of efficiency, scoring on six of nine possessions, and punting only once. They were in Bills territory on eight of nine possessions and would have likely been nine-for-nine had Big Ben not been picked off when the Steelers started at their 37.

The defense put in another excellent performance, helped by the fact that they didn't have to be on the field too much. They held the Bills to 223 yards and only 10 first downs.

But the biggest stat of the day was time of possession. The Steelers once again held a double-digit minute edge in time of possession, holding the ball for 35:27 to Buffalo's 24:33.

Positives

What's not to like so far?

In two games, the Steelers have held the ball for 71:43, while the opposition has had it for only 48:17. When you hold an advantage like that, more often than not, you're going to win. That stat is both a testament to playing well on both offense and defense, which the Steelers have done.

The offense has been excellent so far, as the line has opened holes for Parker, who's run for 100-plus yards in the first two games. And they've given Roethlisberger time to throw and throw it well.

And while the offense has been putting up points on the board, the defense has held the first two opponents to 221 and 223 yards and only 23 total first downs. And the D has picked up 10 sacks already, which means they're well on their way to bettering last year's mark of 39.

And hey, anytime you punt only once in a game, you should be pretty darn happy.

Negatives

Well, the only real negative on Sunday was the fact that the offense couldn't quite punch it into the end zone in the first half, having to settle for four field goals inside 40 yards. You'd have liked to have seen at least one or two touchdowns come out of those drives, but at the same time, to get points on four of five first half possessions is something noteworthy.

Reviewing the Matchup

Pittsburgh O-line vs. Buffalo front seven

Well, it's pretty easy to tell who won this one.

The Steelers manhandled Buffalo just like they did the Browns, and just like the Broncos had done to the Bills in Week 1.

The offense allowed only one sack, just as they did at Cleveland, and the Steelers averaged 5.6 yards per carry on the ground. So far, Pittsburgh is averaging 195 yards per game on the ground or 5.2 yards per carry.

Injury Report

There was a frightening injury moment for both teams in yesterday's game.

A week after Bills TE Kevin Everett suffered a serious spinal injury, Steelers LB James Harrison suffered a neck injury at the end of the first half and lay motionless on the ground for several minutes. He was taken off of the field on a flat board and didn't return to the game.

However, Harrison would be fine, as he moved his arms as he was being attended to, and afterwards, he was able to walk around on the sidelines.

Speaking of Everett, his condition has improved to the point where he was able to watch yesterday's game. And, while it didn't turn out like he would have hoped, he should be proud of the effort that his team gave in his honor before the Steelers' strength just finally wore down the Bills, who had to have been emotionally spent as well as physically.

Looking Ahead

The Steelers stay at home, and start a run of three straight games in which they face NFC West opponents, where they take on San Francisco next Sunday afternoon.

It'll be a matchup of unbeatens, as the 49ers will head into Heinz Field 2-0 following close wins over Arizona and St. Louis.

They started the season with a 20-17 comeback win over the Cardinals, and on Sunday, won a 17-16 decision at St. Louis.

Mike Nolan has done a great job of rebuilding the 49ers back into a winning team, and they're being touted for a big year in 2007. The guy to watch out for on their offense is running back Frank Gore, who ran for 1,695 yards last season, which was his second in the league. So far, he's found the running tough, but he's compiled 136 yards and three scores. Against the Rams, he had a highlight-reel 43-yard touchdown run in the third and finished with 81 yards and two scores on 20 carries.

The Steelers will be looking to stop Gore and stay on a roll. The next few weeks offer the chance to get a little breathing room in the AFC North, before things start getting a little tougher following a bye in Week 6.

But it's been so far, so great for Mike Tomlin and the Black and Gold, who have looked absolutely impressive. It's only two games and they're going to face tougher opponents, but if you're a Steelers fan, you've got to feel pretty good about the way things are going right now.

Next week will present a test to see just how for real both teams are, and hopefully, in the end, Pittsburgh will prevail and continue to turn heads in the early going.