Saturday, August 16, 2014

Preseason Gameday: Buffalo Bills

The House that Hines Built
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

The second preseason game is upon us. The Steelers made it through the first game without any significant injuries. They have spent the past week practicing with the Buffalo Bills, so these teams do have some familiarity with each other. There still isn't a clear picture of which players have roster spots secured at the bottom of the roster, so this game will be incredibly important for the guys battling for the last few roster spots.

What to Watch For

1. No Injuries

It's the preseason, so the most significant thing that can happen is that a player gets injured. If the Steelers can make it through another game without losing any players to significant injury, that would be fantastic. The only "major" injury so far in camp has been Greg Warren's knee injury that will keep him out 4 weeks or so. Long Snapper isn't the most essential position to success, but given Warren's long tenure with the team, it speaks volumes to how well he has been able to do his job. The Steelers have some good young depth at a lot of positions but could be hard-pressed if those players have to become long-term starters. The best case scenario, regardless of the outcome of this game, is to not suffer any significant injuries.

2.  Sammy Watkins vs Steelers CBs

From all reports out of the joint practices this week, Sammy Watkins was lighting it up. When the big lights are on in the Ketchup Bowl, will the Steelers CBs be up to the challenge? Hopefully, though I'll fully admit to being excited to watch Sammy Watkins play in person. This will probably be one of the most challenging receiver matchups the Steelers face in the preseason and after seeing a quarter of action against the Giants last week, hopefully they are able to build on that progress this week. There is still some apprehension in the fanbase after the first team defense allowed a 70-yard touchdown run last week and Watkins is the Bills best chance for a big play in this game. Shutting him out will go a long way towards alleviating some concerns about the defense giving up big plays.

3. Special Teams

The kicking game did not have its best night in the opener against the Giants. Shaun Suisham missed a 38-yard field goal and punter Brad Wing was decidedly mediocre. He had one 51-yard punt, but unfortunately it came right after a 20-yard punt so no one paid much attention to it. With Long Snapper Greg Warren injured, the kicking game will need to show improvement tonight. Adam Podlesh has told the Steelers he will not be reporting to camp, so the job is Brad Wing's to lose. The coverage units were very good in the opener and players that show the ability to  get downfield and make tackles will boost their chances to make the team. On the other hand, the punt return units struggled and the Steelers need to find someone other than Antonio Brown that can return punts. I would be shocked if Martavis Bryant was allowed to return punts again after the failed experiment against the Giants.

4. Bounce-back Games

Some players got off to bad starts in the opener against the Giants. That is not to say that their season is completely lost, but they will need to show they are able to brush off a bad performance and make strides forward. The player this impacts the most is Martavis Bryant, the Steelers fourth-round pick out of Clemson. Bryant's fellow WR Sammy Watkins was taken in the Top 10 by the Bills, so Bryant has something to prove tonight that he can bounce back from his two-fumble performance against the Giants and that he can go toe-to-toe with Watkins. The Steelers also did not get very good performances from any of their backup offensive linemen. The Giants games was the first time that the line had seen a 4-3 defense this year after practicing against a 3-4 in camp. After practicing against the Bills 4-3 all week, hopefully they will perform better tonight.

5. Depth Chart Battles

There are still spots on the depth chart that are wide open. Chiefly: 5th WR, 3rd TE, 4th DE, 2nd NT, 4th OLB, 5th CB and 4th Safety. The first team offense and defense should play the whole first quarter tonight (and possibly into the second), but keep an eye on which players are the first off the bench when the reserves start to come in. Also when the first team is in the game, keep an eye on sub package formations (such as if the offense goes to a 4 WR set or a 3 TE set or when the defense goes into nickel and dime packages). This will give a good indication on who the coaches are high on and who has a good chance of making the team.

Inside the Opposition

Bills Blogs Worth Reading:

Bills Fans/Bloggers On Twitter Worth Following:

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