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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Week 14 Preview: 3 Key Matchups to Watch During Steelers vs. Bills

Photo Credit: AP/ Rick Scuteri Photo Credit: Getty Images

Another week, another primetime game, another fun uniform combination for the Bills. On Sunday Night, the Bills will take on the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers while wearing their all-red “color rush” uniforms under the bright lights of Bills Stadium. The Bills are coming off arguably their best performance of the season on Monday Night, while the Steelers look to recapture their winning ways after suffering their first loss at the hands of the Washington Football Team on Monday as well. This game could serve as a measuring stick to see how the Bills stack up against another top AFC contender shortly before the playoffs begin next month. Plus, who knows? These teams may very well end up seeing each other again before this season is over. 

Key Matchups

1. Josh Allen vs. Minkah Fitzpatrick

The story of the game will come down to a classic battle of offense vs. defense. Buffalo possesses one of the league’s highest scoring offenses while on the other side, Pittsburgh’s defense has been playing lights out all year long. Josh Allen is fresh off arguably the sharpest performance of his young career, torching a very talented 49ers defense for 375 passing yards and 4 TD’s on his way to his third AFC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season, setting a franchise record. Allen was poised, confident, and put on a show all night long with his spectacular pocket awareness and jaw dropping throws. Although this matchup is not as conventional as a direct, head-to-head WR-CB battle, Josh Allen will be stuck in a chess matchup with Minkah Fitzpatrick all night long. Since being traded from Miami to Pittsburgh last year, Minkah Fitzpatrick has emerged into one of the league’s premier ballhawks. In his past two seasons, Fitzpatrick has picked off nine passes, returning two of them to the house, while also recovering three fumbles and forcing two. Clearly, Fitzpatrick is a nightmare for opposing offenses and Josh Allen needs to be aware of him on the field at all times. 

2. Darryl Williams vs. TJ Watt

Pittsburgh’s defense is loaded with disruptive playmakers in every part of the field. Just like his brother JJ, TJ Watt is an animal on defense. He can simply do it all, from rushing the passer to snatching interceptions, Watt can impact a game on every level. Through 12 games, Watt already has 12 sacks on the season and is once again hearing his name mentioned in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Obviously, Watt is a mismatch for essentially every team in the league, but Bills HC Sean McDermott and DC Leslie Frazier will likely lose sleep trying to gameplan for Watt after what Joey Bosa did against them in Week 12. Lined up across Darryl Williams for a large portion of his snaps, Bosa was a nightmare all game long. Bosa ended up with 3 sacks, 5 QB hits. and 6 tackles for a loss. In what has been a very good season for Williams, Bosa had his number that day. Williams has the chance to redeem himself this weekend against Watt. Although it will not be easy, the Bills cannot afford to let Watt disrupt the game in the same manner that Bosa did.

3. Levi Wallace vs. Chase Claypool/JuJu Smith-Schuster/Diontae Johnson

Given the Bills zone defensive scheme and the abundance of talent that the Steelers carry at WR, it is highly unlikely that All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White will be shadowing any one of them in particular. White is expected to hold his own, however, this pits Levi Wallace against some top tier wide receiver talent just six days after getting exposed by the 49ers passing game. Wallace was burned on multiple occasions Monday night, including once for a deep ball to Brandon Aiyuk that set up a 49ers TD shortly after. There are not any indications as of now that the Bills are looking to replace Wallace in the starting lineup, so it appears as if Wallace will get an opportunity to redeem himself against the likes of Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson at various points during Sunday Night Football. Last year against the same opponent on the same national stage, Levi Wallace was able to get his hands on the game sealing interception that clinched a playoff berth, so perhaps we will experience déjà vu all over again when all is said and done. Of course, the Steelers were noticeably missing QB Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu during that game, so it will be a little different this time around. Rookie WR Chase Claypool has been a difference maker for the Steelers offense as well. The 6’4” freak of nature out of Notre Dame has 8 TD’s already this year, posing as a gigantic mismatch for defensive backs around the league. Additionally, Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster each have over 600 receiving yards and 5 plus TD’s. Roethlisberger has reliable weapons everywhere he looks, so do not be surprised if he tests Wallace early on with his various targets knowing that Tre White is lurking on the other side of the field. 

Make no mistake about it, this is a huge game for the Bills. However, they will not let it define them either way. Bills Safety Micah Hyde assured that the Bills want to be playing their best football heading into January, and the team will not get too high or low based on their performance in Week 14. The only target on the Bills’ minds right now is win number 10, and what a statement it would be if they were able to achieve that at home against the current number 1 seed on primetime TV.

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