One of the more intriguing games during Week 1 of the NFL schedule features the Buffalo Bills hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Expectations are high in Buffalo this year, which is why the Bills are 6.5-point favorites over the Steelers in Week 1. This game also has an over/under of 49 points.
The Steelers will enter 2021 with plenty of questions. This was a team that started 2020 with 11 straight wins, only to lose five of its last six games, including a home playoff defeat against the Browns. That has some thinking that this could be one last shot or a time of transition for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers.
Meanwhile, it’s been more than two decades since the Bills began a season with such high hopes. After reaching the AFC Championship Game last season, Buffalo is expected to be one of the heavyweights in the AFC once again and a favorite in the AFC East. The biggest question might be whether the Bills are ready to be the hunted rather than a team that’s on the rise.
The Supporting Cast
Nobody is questioning Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen after a breakout season in 2020, but will the supporting cast around him allow him to take another step forward? Keep in mind the Bills were just 20th in rushing last season, and that was with Allen contributing over 600 rushing yards. With Emmanuel Sanders joining the team, the Bills have to feel good about the wide receiver position, although running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss need to take things to another level.
At the same time, the Buffalo defense is hoping to return to the same level they reached in 2019. At full strength, the Buffalo defensive line has a chance to be among the best in the league, especially if young pass rushers like Greg Rousseau and AJ Epenesa can make a difference. Keep in mind the Bills also have an elite cornerback in Tre’Davious White who can shut down Pittsburgh’s best receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
One Last Ride?
One has to wonder if this will be the last Week 1 start for Ben Roethlisberger. While he put together a decent season in 2020, Roethlisberger’s arm strength and mobility have wained, making the Steelers more reliable on short passes. That makes Pittsburgh’s rushing attack behind rookie Najee Harris even more important.
The good news for the Steelers is their defense is still poised to be one of the best in the NFL this year. While there have been a few changes, Cameron Hayward is still anchoring the defensive line while T.J. Watt provides a pass-rushing presence on the edge. Plus, the safety tandem of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds could be one of the best in the NFL and create some resistance for Buffalo’s passing game.
Keeping It Close
With Pittsburgh’s strong defense and the assumption that Harris is ready to be a feature back, the Steelers will pose a stiff challenge for the Bills. Whether Roethlisberger can do enough to lead Pittsburgh to a win when the Bills have Allen is another matter. However, bet on the Steelers to beat the 6.5-point spread in Week 1.
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