Steelers bounce back, drop sluggish Bills 23-10
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger, like the other 52 players in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room, is frustrated by his team’s lethargic first half.
That doesn’t mean he’s ready to bail.
Roethlisberger passed for 204 yards and a touchdown in a 23-10 win over the toothless Buffalo Bills on Sunday but spent much of the postgame condemning a report the team expects him to ask for a trade in the offseason.
“I’m a Pittsburgher,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve told people that. I’m proud to raise my kids here. I want to finish my career here, however long that is. I don’t want to play for anybody else. This is it for me.”
Even if this season almost certainly won’t end with a third Super Bowl ring or a playoff appearance for that matter. Yet days after stressing he wouldn’t “quit,” Roethlisberger restored a bit of sanity to a year that finds the Steelers (3-6) in flux.
There are no such concerns at quarterback for Buffalo. The future is set with rookie EJ Manuel. The present, however, remains rocky. Manuel struggled in his return from a sprained right knee as the Bills (3-7) dropped their third straight.
Five things we learned after the Steelers made it 38 years and counting since Buffalo last won a regular season game in Pittsburgh:
PITTSBURGH’S DEFENSE IS RESILIENT: A week after giving up franchise records in points (55) and yards (610) in a loss to New England, the Steelers responded by putting the clamps on the Bills.
Buffalo managed just 227 total yards, more than a third of them coming on a meaningless touchdown drive in the final minutes. The Bills converted just 3 of 14 third downs and finished with just 95 yards rushing, 50 below their average.
“I think we went out there and answered the call today,” Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “We played like we’re always supposed to.”
MANUEL IS RUSTY: The 16th overall pick in last April’s draft insisted the month he spent on the sidelines after spraining his right knee wasn’t an issue. Maybe, but he didn’t exactly look comfortable while facing a pass rush that sacked him three times and harassed him relentlessly.
Manuel completed 22 of 39 passes for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The numbers are deceptive. Until Buffalo’s last 80-yard drive, Manuel was in danger of putting up the most futile day by a Buffalo quarterback in at least five years.
“The kid missed four weeks and just came back,” Buffalo coach Doug Marrone said. “He’s trying his best. ... He’s going through his footwork too quick and not (slowing) down to see things develop as quick. That happens to young quarterbacks.”
THE STEELERS CAN RUN (A LITTLE): The NFL’s 28th-ranked rushing attack rolled up 136 yards on 33 clock-sapping carries, keeping Pittsburgh’s defense off the field and giving the beleaguered offensive line a chance to throw its considerable weight around considering 323-pound tackle Mike Adams spent most of the game at tight end.
Rookie Le’Veon Bell rolled up 96 total yards and a touchdown. Though he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry, he was able to keep things moving and keep the Bills on their heels.
“We came in from the get-go wanting to run the ball and establish the run,” Bell said. “Buffalo had no opportunities to get back in the game.”
BUFFALO’S PASS RUSH IS LEGIT: Buffalo’s improved front seven sacked Roethlisberger four times to push its season total to 33. It’s the sixth time in franchise history the Bills have reached 33 sacks through 10 games, with end Jerry Hughes already reaching a career high with six.
Buffalo’s pressure, however, failed to rattle Roethlisberger. It helps Roethlisberger managed to recover his own fumble after being sacked by Marcell Dareus in Pittsburgh territory that could have changed things considerably if the Bills had managed to fall on it.
“It just seems like right now, even when we do get the ball on the ground, we can’t even recover it,” Marrone said.
JERRICHO COTCHERY IS THRIVING: The veteran wide receiver had to fend off rookie Markus Wheaton to hold onto the spot as Pittsburgh’s third wide receiver. At the moment, Cotchery is indispensable. He caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger with 1:55 left in the half to give the Steelers the lead, his sixth score of the season, tying a career high.
“You trust him,” Roethlisberger said. “You know where he’s going to be and what he is going to do.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org