NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 3 BUF at PIT

Observation Deck: Pittsburgh Steelers

August, 16, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' first-team offense needed less than five minutes to score two touchdowns, and one of those came on a 67-yard catch-and-run by Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Yet the story of the night at Heinz Field was the Steelers’ defense -- and specifically a prized rookie who is on his way to becoming one of the faces of a unit that is in transition.

Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier starred in his NFL debut, recording six tackles, two stops on special teams and an interception.

And that was just in the first quarter of the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills .

“I thought he did an awesome job,” Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Shazier finished with 11 tackles despite playing a little less than a half. The 6-foot-1, 237-pound speedster answered several questions about how much a bruised knee that cost him two weeks of training camp set back the first-round pick.

The short answer: It didn’t.

Shazier was all over the field, and his interception of an EJ Manuel pass in the second quarter set up the second of Ben Roethlisberger’s two touchdown passes.

Roethlisberger played into the second quarter and looked sharp, completing 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards. The Steelers won their first preseason game since 2012 despite squandering an early 10-point lead.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ second preseason game:

  • The starting offense line didn’t punch many holes in one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, as the Steelers rushed for just 10 yards in the first half. It did keep Roethlisberger clean and gave the 11-year veteran enough time to stand in the pocket and deliver a 16-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton for the Steelers’ second score.
  • The starting defense, which played more than a quarter and was missing only outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin), didn’t allow a touchdown. But it’s hard to tell how much of a test it received. Ballyhooed wide receiver Sammy Watkins left the game early with a rib injury and did not return. Manuel, meanwhile, is nothing more than a dink-and-dunk quarterback. The Bills have 6-10 written all over them unless Manuel makes dramatic improvement in his second season.
  • Mike Mitchell might want to tone it down a little bit. The Steelers’ free safety drew a taunting penalty after jawing at Bills running back C.J. Spiller following a stop that he wasn’t even in on. Yo, Mike, you’re still the new guy in town. Better to be seen than heard for now.
  • Landry Jones, the second quarterback in for the Steelers, is lucky he didn’t get yanked after throwing an interception and later losing a fumble that the Bills turned into a game-tying touchdown. Jones took a step back; 40 of his 53 passing yards came on a catch-and-run by Dri Archer, and he was sacked twice.
  • A pair of undrafted rookies, defensive end Josh Mauro and outside linebacker Howard Jones, played with the second-team defense. Mauro appears to have moved past Brian Arnfelt, who played in a couple of games at the end of last season after spending most of 2013 on the Steelers’ practice squad. Mauro notched a sack in the fourth quarter after Jones helped flush Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel out of the pocket. Jones also recovered the fumble that set up Shaun Suisham's game-winning field goal.

Observation Deck: Buffalo Bills

August, 16, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- The Buffalo Bills' 19-16 preseason loss Saturday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers was overshadowed by an injury to Sammy Watkins, the Bills' prized acquisition from May's draft.

Watkins was hit in the ribs on a third-down pass early in the first quarter and quickly grabbed at the area in pain. He was taken to the locker room for evaluation and did not return.

Here are some other thoughts on the Bills' preseason loss:
  • Quarterback EJ Manuel and the Bills' first-team offense played the entire first half, although that wasn't the plan entering the game. The Bills failed to get into the end zone on their first three trips into Steelers territory, so Doug Marrone wanted his offense to try a fourth time. It failed, as the Bills reached the Steelers' 3-yard line before two consecutive incompletions led to a turnover on downs. The Bills' red zone offense struggled last season and it's a problem that hasn't gone away. Manuel has yet to throw a touchdown pass this preseason.
  • As for Manuel's overall performance, there were ups and downs. His best throw of the night came on a 16-yard completion to Robert Woods that moved the chains in the second quarter. Overall, the Bills' first-team offense was 5-for-9 on third downs, which was a brighter spot. However, Manuel's night was marred by an interception by Ryan Shazier on a pass that was thrown slightly behind tight end Scott Chandler. Manuel's final stat line was 17-for-27 for 148 yards. There was not marked improvement over his outing on Aug. 8.
  • Watkins and Mike Williams received the start at receiver, with Chris Hogan entering on the first drive as a slot receiver. When Watkins was injured, he was replaced by Woods, who finished the first half with three catches for 49 yards. The Bills' leading receiver? Running back Fred Jackson, who caught seven passes for 28 yards. It was more of a dink-and-dunk night from Manuel, especially without Watkins.
  • The Steelers' offense got off to a quick start when Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a 76-yard catch-and-run on the Steelers' second play from scrimmage. On the play, safety Duke Williams collided with cornerback Corey Graham, allowing Brown to run free over the middle. Williams received the start in place of Aaron Williams, who came on with the second-team defense in the third quarter. Marrone previously said not to read into Aaron Williams' playing time as an indication of his performance in the preseason.