Bills fall to Steelers 23-16 at home in season opener

Buffalo Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 12: A general view of Highmark Stadium as Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills waits for the snap against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 12, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ new-look offense overcame a slow start, Ulysees Gilbert returned a blocked punt 9 yards for a touchdown and Pittsburgh rallied to a season-opening 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Down 10-0, the Steelers scored on each of their first four possessions of the second half, with Roethlisberger putting Pittsburgh ahead for good by lobbing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson in the left corner of the end zone.

The pass initially went off Johnson’s fingertips, but the receiver was able to secure the ball before tumbling out of bounds 3:41 into the fourth quarter. The Steelers then extended their lead to 20-10 some 90 seconds later with Miles Killebrew bursting up the middle to block Matt Haack’s punt, with Gilbert scooping up the loose ball and running it in untouched.

In opening his 18th — and perhaps final — season, Roethlisberger posted his 36th career fourth-quarter comeback to tie Drew Brees for third on the NFL list. He finished 18 of 32 for 188 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Boswell hit all three field-goal attempts, including a game-sealing 45-yarder with 2:42 remaining.

The Steelers defeated the Bills after losing to them in each of the past two seasons — both times in primetime.

In a matchup of defending AFC division champs, the Bills produced a dud following an offseason in which many pegged them as Super Bowl contenders.

Buffalo’s Allen-led dynamic offense sputtered in resembling nothing of the aggressive unit which set numerous scoring and passing records last year. Allen finished 30 of 51 for 270 yards with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis.

The Bills otherwise settled for Tyler Bass hitting three field goals and, worse still, failed to convert consecutive fourth-down opportunities to open the second half.

Give the Steelers defense credit for keeping them in the game.

Gilbert’s touchdown came when the Bills were forced to punt following a three-and-out in which James Pierre punched the ball out of the arms of Emmanuel Sanders to prevent a 20-yard catch on second down, and T.J. Watt followed by sacking Allen for a 6-yard loss.

Watt certainly made his presence felt three days after becoming the NFL’s top-paid defensive player by signing a four-year, $112 million contract extension. He sacked Allen in the second quarter and forced a fumble by chasing the quarterback down from behind on third-and-13 at the Pittsburgh 41.

Roethlisberger overcame a slow start under Steelers new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Pittsburgh combined for just three first downs and 54 net yards on its six possessions in the first half. Rookie first-round draft pick, running back Najee Harris, had 7 yards on eight carries in the first half, and finished with 45 yards on 16 carries.

BIG OPENING

The Bills scored on their opening possession with Bass hitting a 37-yard field goal, which was set up by Isaiah McKenzie’s 75-yard kickoff return.

Buffalo didn’t score again until its final possession of the half, in which Allen capped a 13-play, 91-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Davis. Facing third-and-goal, Allen threaded a perfect pass in hitting Davis in stride, and a step ahead of defender Cameron Sutton.

WATT’S UP

Watt got his 18th career forced fumble, which is the most in the NFL since he was drafted in 2017. Watt also upped his sack total to 51 1/2.

FOR THE BLOCK

Killebrew’s blocked punt was Pittsburgh’s first since Roosevelt Nix against Atlanta in 2018. Gilbert’s TD return off a blocked punt was Pittsburgh’s first since Bills current special teamer Tyler Matakevich scored against Cleveland in 2017.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Home opener against Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 19.

Bills: At Miami Dolphins on Sept. 19.

Gameday blog

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — The Buffalo Bills hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday to open this year’s NFL season.

1st quarter

The Bills got the ball first and Isaiah McKenzie returned the kickoff for 75 yards to set the offense up with excellent field position, but after a three and out from a drive that started on the Steelers’ 24-yard line, Buffalo had to settle for a field goal. Tyler Bass connected from 37 yards out and the Bills took an early 3-0 lead.

The subsequent Steelers drive stalled out after five plays and 22 yards. A 41 yard punt, and a fair catch later, and the Bills got the ball back on their own 12 yard line with 10:35 left in the first.

Penalties set the Bills back on the ensuing possession and after 10 plays and a net gain of 33 yards, Buffalo punted it back to Pittsburgh and the Steelers took over on their own 20 yard line.

Steelers and Bills each trade three-and-outs on back to back drives and Pittsburgh got it back on their 8 yard line after a Buffalo punt. Steelers were working through a four-play, 29 yard drive when the first quarter came to an end with the Bills still leading 3-0.

2nd quarter

That Steelers drive ended a few plays later and Buffalo took over at their own 23 after another Steelers punt. Then it was seven plays and, you guessed it, another punt. Steelers got the ball back on their own 7 yard line in what has increasingly become a field position battle as neither offense has been able to advance the ball much.

That Buffalo field position theme continued on the subsequent drive. Pittsburgh was held to another punt, but Steelers punter Pressley Harvin’s kick went off the side of his foot, only went 30 yards, and the Bills got the ball back on the Steelers’ 35 yard line with 9:32 left in the first half.

Ouch. Bills lose the good field position after Josh Allen fumbles away the ball following a sack by T.J. Watt and Pittsburgh got it back on their own 44 yard line. Fortunately for Bills fans, the Steelers didn’t take advantage of the turnover and punted the ball once again. Buffalo got it back on their own 9 yard line with 6:01 remaining in the second quarter.

With the first half coming to a close, the Bills offense finally came alive. Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis for a 3 yard touchdown pass that completed a 13-play, 91 yard drive. Bass notched the extra point and Buffalo took a 10-0 lead with 0:22 left in the half. That score held into the halftime break as the Steelers took a knee on the ensuing possession.

The Bills beat the Steelers in the first half in a number of key stats, including first downs (10-3), yards (189-54), and time of possession (17:45-12:15).

3rd quarter

Steelers got the ball first to start the second half and use it to get on the board. A nine-play, 69 yard drive ended with a successful 24-yard field goal from kicker Chris Boswell, which narrowed the Buffalo lead to 10-3 with 10:26 left in the third quarter.

A 12-play, 40 yard Bills drive ended when Head Coach Sean McDermott opted to go for a fourth and 8 from the Steelers’ 35-yard line. The deep shot from Allen down the middle to Davis was incomplete and Pittsburgh got the ball back with 5:48 left in the third.

On the next drive the Steelers narrowed the lead again, but the Bill defense was able to hold tight in the red zone and prevented Pittsburgh from getting into the end zone. An 11-play, 62 yard drive ended with a successful 20 yard field goal from Boswell and Buffalo led 10-6 with 1:47 remaining in the quarter. That score held until the clock expired on the period.

4th quarter

The Bills had an eight play 27 yard drive that ended on another unsuccessful fourth down attempt and the Steelers took over at midfield with a chance to take the lead.

Pittsburgh took advantage of the favorable field position and turned it into a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger found Diontae Johnson in the corner of the endzone for a 5 yard touchdown pass. Boswell’s extra point try went through and the Steelers took their first lead of the game 13-10 with 11:19 left in the game.

Buffalo’s offense keeps sputtering and the special teams took a turn for the worst. Pittsburgh blocked Buffalo’s punt on the next possession and they returned it for a touchdown. Boswell’s extra point gave Pittsburgh a 20-10 lead with 9:49 left in the quarter.

The Bills made it a one possession game after a nine-play, 67 yard drive culminated in a 25-yard field goal by Bass. WIth 5:47 remaining in the contest, Buffalo trailed Pittsburgh 20-13.

The Steelers answered when it mattered most; turning a nine-play, 48 yard drive into another Boswell field goal, which gave Pittsburgh a 23-13 with less than three minutes remaining. Oh, and Buffalo used all their timeouts.

The 23-13 score held until there was 0:46 left in the game when Bass connected on a 42 yard field goal to reduce the Steelers lead 23-16. Trailing by seven with no timeouts and less than a minute left to play, the Bills are hoping for a successful onside kick attempt.

It was unsuccessful as Pittsburgh recovered and went on to win the game.

Final score

Steelers 23, Bills 16

Buffalo finished with more first downs, yards, and time of possession, but also had more turnovers and penalties.


Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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