BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Josh Allen is most dangerous when he’s comfortable in the pocket. The problem is, the Bills offensive line won’t have an easy day keeping their quarterback untouched this weekend. Pittsburgh comes to town just one year after leading the league in sacks. It’s a big challenge for the big guys up front to stop the rush and keep their $258 million investment upright.
Pittsburgh ranked third in the NFL in total yards and in pass yards allowed per game in 2020. They finished first in the league in sacks with 56. Fifteen of those came from T.J. Watt, who led all defensive players with that number. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll believes the success on this defensive front goes beyond just Watt.
“Really all the guys they rotate in and out, they’ve got [Melvin] Ingram back there too on the edge and obviously Watt and [Cameron] Heyward and those guys,” Daboll said. “Look it’s hard, it’s hard to block them and they pressure a lot too so look we’ve got our work cut out for us. There’s not a lot of adjustments, we’ve got to do a good job of blocking them and getting open.”
The Steelers also placed in the top five in turnovers. They were second in the league only to the Dolphins in takeaways last year with 29, and 18 of those came from interceptions.
“They play tight man-to-man coverage,” Daboll said. “They’ve got a great style of defense. Coordinator has been there a long time. The guys know what they’re doing. They are a really formidable opponent, one of the best in the league so we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”
It’s a defense that’s tough in all areas. Their front can get after the quarterback, and their guys on the back end have shown their ability to cover. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick led the team in interceptions with four last year. Josh Allen called the defender a “ball hawk.”
“He just switches up his style,” Allen said. “Every couple of plays you don’t know if he’s dropping into the box or if he’s trying to play over the top on something, but he’s always around the ball. Whether it’s a fumble that is forced by one of their other guys it seems like it’s popping up right into his chest and when the ball is in the air he’s got as good ball skills as anybody in the league so making sure that we are focused on where he is at, his depth from the line of scrimmage. He’s one of those guys that can wreck a game plan so we’ve got to figure it out and figure it out early.”
While the Steelers did create some pressure up front against the Bills last year, they only got to Allen one time. They also had six hits on the Buffalo quarterback.
Even though it won’t be an easy challenge for the Bills’ offensive line, the defensive line for the Steelers won’t have an easy night either. Last year, the Bills ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks allowed. They’ll look to once again keep their QB out of trouble in week one.