Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 Buffalo Bills: Steelers rally in fourth quarter to win defensive battle

Cameron Hogwood

Interviews, Comment & Analysis @ch_skysports

Ben Roethlisberger throws for 188 yards and one touchdown to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills; Josh Allen finishes 30 of 51 for 270 yards and one touchdown as Bills fail to respond to two quick-fire touchdowns in the fourth-quarter.

Last Updated: 12/09/21 10:51pm

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Watch the best of the action as the Buffalo Bills take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Watch the best of the action as the Buffalo Bills take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers rallied in the second half to overturn a 10-point deficit and edge a defensive battle with the Buffalo Bills 23-16 on the opening Sunday of the 2021 NFL season.

Story of the Game

While Keith Butler’s Steelers defense flourished, there were some natural teething problems to the installation of Matt Canada’s offense as Ben Roethlisberger overcame a slow-going first half to finish 18 of 32 for 188 yards and one touchdown.

It was also a case of slim pickings for first-round rookie running back Najee Harris as he was limited to 45 yards from 16 carries on the ground amid Pittsburgh’s effort to improve on last season’s 32nd-ranked rushing offense.

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Big Ben finds Johnson – who briefly limped off the field earlier – for the five-yard go-ahead score.

Big Ben finds Johnson – who briefly limped off the field earlier – for the five-yard go-ahead score.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen went 30 of 51 passing for 270 yards and one touchdown, though found his avenues narrowed by excellent coverage from a swarming secondary led by Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Buffalo did seek to switch it up by initiating things on the ground in the latter stages with Devin Singletary, who finished with 11 carries 72 yards, but could not find an answer to two fourth-quarter touchdowns in quick succession via a Diontae Johnson catch and a blocked punt returned by Ulysees Gilbert III.

Stats leaders

Steelers

  • Passing: Ben Roethlisberger, 18/32, 188 yards, 1 TDs
  • Rushing: Najee Harris, 16 carries, 45 yards
  • Receiving: JuJu Smith-Schuster, four catches, 52 yards
  • Chase Claypool, three catches, 45 yards
  • Diontae Johnson, five catches, 36 yards, 1 TD

Bills

  • Passing: Josh Allen, 30/51, 270 yards, 1 TDs
  • Rushing: Devin Singletary, 11 carries, 72 yards
  • Receiving: Stefon Diggs, nine catches, 69 yards,
  • Cole Beasley, eight catches, 60 yards
  • Emmanuel Sanders, four catches, 52 yards

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With 22 seconds left in the first half, Allen hits Gabriel Davis for a three-yard score to cap a 13-play, 91-yard drive.

With 22 seconds left in the first half, Allen hits Gabriel Davis for a three-yard score to cap a 13-play, 91-yard drive.

MVPs

In his 150th game, Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward was a primary disruptor to the Bills’ offensive plans, hustling to force an Allen fumble in the first quarter before recovering another later in the half and then stuffing the Buffalo quarterback in the fourth quarter to force the punt that the Steelers would block and subsequently recover for a touchdown.

Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick spearheaded a suffocating Steelers secondary, while wide receiver Chase Claypool asserted himself as a spark with a huge catch over Tre’Davious White on the sideline and a 25-yard run to help his offense find some momentum even without the respective drives ending in touchdowns.

Scoring Summary

Scoring summary

FIRST QUARTER
Steelers 0-3 Bills Tyler Bass 37-yard field goal
SECOND QUARTER
Steelers 0-10 Bills Josh Allen 3-yard TD pass to Gabriel Davis (extra point)
THIRD QUARTER
Steelers 3-10 Bills Chris Boswell 24-yard field goal
Steelers 6-10 Bills Chris Boswell 20-yard field goal
FOURTH QUARTER
Steelers 13-10 Bills Ben Roethlisberger five-yard TD pass to Diontae Johnson (extra point)
Steelers 20-10 Bills locked punt recovered by Ulysees Gilbert III in endzone (extra point)
Steelers 20-13 Bills Tyler Bass 25-yard field goal
Steelers 23-13 Bills Chris Boswell 45-yard field goal
Steelers 23-16 Bills Tyler Bass 42-yard field goal

Key Moments

After a slow start on offense the Bills finally found some joy late in the first half, following up Tyler Bass’ field goal after Isaiah McKenzie’s 75-yard kickoff return with a three-yard touchdown connection from Allen to Gabriel Davis. It capped a 13-play, 91-yard drive that included a 37-yard reception from Davis in traffic and seen Allen go seven of eight.

Having managed just 54 yards of total offense in the first half, the Steelers earned their first points through a 24-yard field goal from Chris Boswell on the opening drive of the second half after Chase Claypool had hauled in a superb contested catch over the shoulder of Tre’Davious White on the right sideline.

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The Steelers are up by 10 as Buffalo’s attempted punt following a three-and-out on offense is blocked and Ulysees Gilbert runs in the loose ball for the score.

The Steelers are up by 10 as Buffalo’s attempted punt following a three-and-out on offense is blocked and Ulysees Gilbert runs in the loose ball for the score.

Pittsburgh followed up by turning the Bills’ failure to convert on fourth-and-eight into a 20-yard Boswell field goal, which could have been more were it not for Matt Milano’s tackle on Najee Harris at the two-yard line on third-and-six just as the rookie had looked end zone-bound.

Momentum then appeared to swing when Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who returned after going down hurt in the first half, rewarded Heyward’s stop on fourth-and-one with a juggling five-yard touchdown catch, before Ulysees Gilbert III was at hand to recover the blocked punt and run it into the end zone on the Bills’ ensuing drive to put Pittsburgh in the driving seat at 20-10 with 9.45 to play.

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