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Bills-Steelers preview: Long day for Ben Roethlisberger ahead

The Bills' offense may be lethal, but a new pass rush might catch Pittsburgh off guard.
Credit: AP
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver (91) and Vernon Butler (94) during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. The Bills recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes )

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Josh Allen and Ben Roethlisberger are not the same.

The latter has two Super Bowls under his belt, so maybe the comparison doesn't hurt for Allen - but he is a different quarterback.

Sunday afternoon, the Bills and Steelers will meet for the third time in three seasons, and Buffalo will go for its third straight win in that matchup.

It's been a busy week for Pittsburgh, leading up to Sunday's season opener in Orchard Park, with the Steelers making linebacker T.J. Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the national football league with a four-year contract extension worth $112 million.

Watt and the Steelers' defense could create problems for Josh Allen and the Bills' offense, which ranked third in the NFL in passing in the 2020 regular season.

Steelers Defensive Coordinator, Keith Butler is aware of the comparisons between Roethlisberger and Allen, and he hopes to see Allen try to run the ball on Sunday.

"I hope he does try to finish the run, and we'll treat him... if he wants to be true like running back we'll do that," Butler said. "He's a big, physical guy. He is, as I said, he reminds me of a young Ben Roethlisberger. You don't see (Roethlisberger) being run as much as he used to be, that's an important position."

"There's usually a price to pay, so we'll see what happens."

The New Pass Rush

The matchup extends far beyond the similarities between two quarterbacks. The Bills will trot out a fresh defensive look where they needed to improve the most in 2020 - the pass rush.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane remedied the situation by selecting two pass rushers with Buffalo's first and second-round picks in the most recent NFL Draft, in Gregory Rousseau out of the University of Miami and Boogie Basham out of Wake Forest.

Both of the rookies had a solid training camp and preseason, and Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier now has more options for his defense when it comes to getting to Roethlisberger.

Rousseau, the 30th overall pick, who comes with a 6-foot, 6-inch frame, has shown his ability to use this length to hurry the quarterback in the preseason.

"He's like Godzilla," Bills' Defensive Lineman, Mario Addison said describing the rookie during training camp. "You have to look up to him all the time, so when I'm talking to him, I'm looking up like, 'Dang, guy, you're a big guy.' " 

"Just seeing how he sets the edge-rushing and using all his length is tremendous. He's coming off the guy punching it and the guy is barely out of his stance."

No matter the number of sacks recorded, the Bills will be able to hurry up Roethlisberger against a Steelers offensive line, which will start two rookies on Sunday.

The Bills defensive backfield - starting Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre'Davious White, and Levi Wallace for the fourth-straight season - will be grateful.

"This doesn't happen a lot in the league," Wallace said on Friday, regarding the consistency. "We don't want to look back seven years from now. ... We want to put our best foot forward this year and put that urgency to the test."

The time is now

The Bills high-octane offense appeared to have not suffered any setbacks when Josh Allen played nearly the entire first half in Buffalo's third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

But that was the preseason.

Sunday afternoon, the Bills will play in front of a packed house at Highmark Stadium for the first time since 2019 - and Allen will be expected to perform.

The Bills will return a deep receiving corps - led by 2020 All-Pro Stefon Diggs - with Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and now veteran Emmanuel Sanders added to the mix.

Allen will get to play behind an offensive line he knows well, and Devin Singletary will start at running back.

After receiving a 258 million dollar contract extension this summer, Allen will need to prove he was worth the money, starting Sunday against the Steelers.