Originally written on Pro Football Spot  |  Last updated 11/13/14

CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 27: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Quarterback: BQuarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly didn’t put up one of his better statistical games, but he managed a balanced offensive gameplan that was just enough to seal away a victory in typical Steelers fashion. Roethlisberger threw his only interception of the game on the team’s first drive; unfortunately, it came when the Steelers’ offense was driving deep into Buffalo territory. The interception came on a second-and-13 at the Bills’ 36-yard-line. Roethlisberger dropped back and threw a deep pass down the right side of the field, which was intended for wide receiver Markus Wheaton, yet was intercepted by Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, who provided help in coverage over the top. Roethlisberger, however, was able to bounce back from his early mistake and finished the game completing 18 of 30 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery — his sixth of the season.Running Backs: CThe Steelers are continuing to try and find a good balance between the run and the pass, attempting 30 pass attempts while also rushing 33 times. Despite the emphasis on the rushing attack, though, Pittsburgh’s ground game continues to struggle and has yet to put up the results that were expected when they drafted running back Le’Veon Bell in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft. The blame, however, cannot all be placed on Bell, as the Steelers’ offensive line has yet to find the cohesiveness they’ve been seeking, as well as enough healthy bodies to consistently patch together a full line for game day. Bell finished the game with one touchdown (a four-yard run) and 57 yards on 22 carries (a 2.6 yard-per-carry average). Running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones added to the ground game, with Dwyer carrying six times for 38 yards (6.3 average) and Jones carrying four times for 16 yards (4.0 average). The Steelers finished with 136 yards rushing, but the longest run for them — a 25-yarder — came on a run by a wide receiver (Emmanuel Sanders) out of the Wildcat formation.Wide Receivers: B+Although they only caught 18 combined passes, the Steelers’ receiving corps managed to shine on a gusty day in Pittsburgh, where receptions — let alone targets — were not easy to come by. Wide receiver Antonio Brown continues to emerge and flourish as the team’s No. 1 receiver, also being able to provide a spark in the return game (more on that later). Brown finished with a team-high six receptions for 104 yards, averaging 17.3 yards per reception. What’s more, the rapport between him and Roethlisberger continues to grow, as Brown led the team with 11 targets. Cotchery is also emerging as a consistent target for Roethlisberger, finishing with only two receptions, but the team’s only receiving touchdown. Cotchery now has six receiving touchdowns on the year — three times as many as he had in his first two seasons as a part of the Steelers.Offensive Line: CGranted, it’s hard to operate with a patchwork offensive line, but this year’s line is among the top disappointments for the Steelers this season. Coming in with high expectations, the line has failed to live up to those expectations and has also failed to stay healthy. Coming into the game against the Bills, the Steelers’ were eager to establish the run — something that hasn’t been all that easy for them this year. As noted earlier, the ground game came up with production, just not the sort of production the team had been hoping for. After getting benched as the team’s starting left tackle, Mike Adams has only seen time on the line due to injury, but lined up as an extra tight end on a majority of the team’s snaps against the Bills. This proved to be a success, especially on Bell’s four-yard touchdown run, when Adams lined up as an extra blocker and led the way into the end zone. Pittsburgh, however, lost yet another lineman to injury in the game, losing starting left guard Ramon Foster to a high ankle sprain. According to head coach Mike Tomlin, Foster will be limited in practice in this week and has a shot to play against the Detroit Lions (6-3) on Sunday.Defensive Line: B+The Steelers were coming off of two consecutive losses — to Oakland and New England — where they allowed a horrendous 197 rushing yards in each game. The Steelers’ defense entered the game against the Bills eager to stop the league’s seventh-ranked rushing offense — and they did. Buffalo averages 140.7 rushing yards per game, and were coming off of a performance in Kansas City where the talented running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson rushed for 116 and 77 yards, respectively. The Steelers porous run defense, which is allowing 127.2 rushing yards per game, held Spiller to only 23 yards and Jackson to 55. Defensive end Cameron Heyward was the standout on the defensive line, registering one sack and six tackles, playing how the Steelers envisioned he would when they chose him with their first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft.Linebackers: BThe Steelers’ pass rush finally showed up against the Bills, sacking Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel three times — once by Heyward, once by linebacker Lawrence Timmons and the other by rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones (his first career sack). The linebacking unit really stepped up in both the run and passing game, providing consistent pressure on Manuel and forcing him into bad decisions. With the resurgent Steelers defense, the Bills failed to score a touchdown up until there were three seconds left in the game and held the Bills’ offense to only three-of-14 on third-down conversions, definitely stepping up as a unit after being torched by the New England Patriots’ offense for 55 points the previous week.Secondary: AThe Steelers’ pass defense ranks fourth in the league, allowing only an average of 201.3 passing yards per game, but they’re a team who has given up numerous big plays in previous weeks. Against Buffalo, however, the Pittsburgh defense only allowed one play that was longer than 20 yards — 23-yard reception by wide receiver Stevie Johnson. After giving up 432 passing yards to Tom Brady and the Patriots a week ago, the Steelers’ secondary buckled down against Manuel and the Bills passing offense. Pittsburgh’s secondary held Manuel to 22 completions on 39 attempts for only 155 yards and one touchdown, as well as an interception made by safety Ryan Clark — his second of the season. Believe it or not, Steelers fans, but the star of the secondary was (and has been) cornerback William Gay, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles as well as two tackles for loss.Special Teams: AThe Steelers’ special teams units were a large factor in this game, providing the spark that they’ve been looking for all season. Newly acquired punter Mat McBriar showed no signs of excellence, but he also didn’t have any “junior varsity punts,” as Tomlin would say. You certainly can’t fault McBriar for short and wobbly punts, as the wind in Pittsburgh reached up to 21 miles-per-hour, obviously less-than-ideal conditions for kicking the football. Rest assured, though, because kicker Shaun Suisham was able to make all three of his attempted field goals, the longest from 37 yards out. The biggest spark from the special teams units, though, came from Brown in the punt return game. Brown returned two punts for 74 yards, his longest of which was a 50-yard return to the Bills’ 11-yard-line, setting up Suisham for his final field goal of the game.
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