4 Observations: Bills lose opener 23-16

Buffalo Bills

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and forces a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game in Orchard park, N.Y., Sunday Sept. 12, 2021. (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The highly anticipated Bills season began with a very disappointing 23-16 loss to the Steelers. The Bills held a 10-0 lead entering the 2nd half but Pittsburgh controlled the 3rd and 4th quarter scoring 20 unanswered points on their way to pulling off the upset on the road.

Here are 4 Observations following the loss:

  1. Josh Allen didn’t look like the same quarterback who finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2021. The Bills QB looked indecisive at times during the game and the offense never found a rhythm. The Steelers defense was able to get pressure on Allen. Pittsburgh finished with 3 sacks and forced the Bills offensive line into several holding calls. Allen struggled to connect on the long ball at times last season and after Sunday’s loss he pointed out missing a wide open Emmanuel Sanders deep down the field that would have been a sure touchdown. That drive ended with a punt.
  1. The Bills defense deserved a better fate. The Steelers were shutout in the 1st half, only managed 54 yards of offense and couldn’t get anything going on the ground or in the air. The Pittsburgh offense looked better in the 2nd half but it would have been difficult to look worse. Every stat category favored the Bills defense in the loss. They held Roethlisberger to 188 yards passing, they only allowed 3.6 yards per carry, and Pittsburgh finished 4-12 on 3rd down. Following the game, Jordan Poyer said he was disappointed that they couldn’t force turnover but that was just about the only thing the defense failed to do.
  1. The Bills decisions on 4th down were questionable. The coaching staff decided to punt on 2 drives when they have the ball inside Steelers territory. The offense had the ball on the 46 and 43 and were facing a 4th & 1 and 4th & 3 and punted. The Bills held a 3-0 lead in the 1st half when they took a conservative approach. In the 2nd half, the Bills decided to go for it on 4th down twice and came up empty both times. The were with Tyler Bass field goal range when Allen couldn’t connect with Gabriel Davis and the Bills turned the ball over on downs. The 2nd time the Bills went for it and failed on 4th down from midfield. The play call was very “interesting”. Allen faked a QB sneak on 4th & 1, he turned and threw it backwards to Matt Breida who lost 7 yards.
  1. Keeping pass rushers fresh is something we’ve heard the Bills talk about often this preseason. Here’s a look at the unofficial snap count and rotation for the defensive ends and who they were paired with:
  • Hughes-Rousseau: 5(plays)
  • Addison-Rousseau: 3
  • Hughes-Epenesa: 6
  • Addison-Rousseau: 3
  • Hughes-Rousseau: 2 → Addison-Rousseau: 2


  • Hughes-Rousseau: 5 → Epenesa-Addison: 4 → Hughes-Addison: 1
  • Addison-Obada: 5 → Rousseau-Hughes: 3
  • Addison-Hughes: 3 → Epenesa-Rousseau: 3
  • Epenesa-Rousseau: 3 → Hughes-Addison: 3

Josh Reed is an award-winning journalist who has served as News 4’s Sports Director since 2015. See more of his work here.

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