Who’s the favorite for this preseason bout?
The Buffalo Bills will head three hours south on Saturday, taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 of the NFL preseason. As two of the league’s most consistent franchises in recent years, it’s always a treat to see these teams face off on the playing field, even if it’s just in an exhibition contest.
Here’s a look at how they match up.
A Look at the Opposition: Pittsburgh Steelers
While they may not have the talent at quarterback that the Bills have (the jury is still out on second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, to say the least), the Steelers look like they’re going to be one of the deeper teams in the NFL this year, which can pose a problem in a preseason game where dozens of players who wouldn’t normally start have a chance to take the field. They’re always going to be well coached under the leadership of head man Mike Tomlin, making a matchup with Pittsburgh an excellent chance for the Bills to test out the talent and discipline of the players holding onto a fringe roster spot as they look to flesh out their team.
The Steelers have an excellent defense, but they’ve struggled in recent years when their offense leaves them hanging out to dry. If Buffalo can force turnovers or three-and-outs from Pittsburgh’s offense, the Steelers’ defense won’t be able to maintain their effectiveness after being out on the field for 40 minutes. Buffalo’s big play ability (on both sides of the ball), specifically, could turn this into a lopsided matchup if one of the Steelers’ younger players makes a mistake.
That said, Pickett and the offense looked excellent in their first preseason matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, working down the field methodically.
What’s the Outlook: Preseason
Dating back to last year, Allen has barely played in the preseason. He got a decent amount of exhibition reps earlier in his career, but he was a different quarterback then, struggling with consistency or trying to build a rapport with new targets like Stefon Diggs. Now that they’ve established themselves as one of the best duos in the league, the need for live action (and the injury risk that comes with it in a meaningless game) wanes quite a bit.
Allen attempted just three passes last preseason, taking part in one series of action as a quick tune-up ahead of the regular season.
The Steelers, on the other hand, sit on the opposite end of the spectrum as it pertains to how they view preseason reps. Tomlin has long been one of the most demanding coaches in the league as he gets his team ready for the regular season: whether it’s extremely physical training sessions (the Steelers were one of the last NFL teams to ban two-a-day practices) or expecting his star players to get a fair share of the preseason reps.
Tomlin is a firm believer in the power of adequate preparation, even to the point that he thinks it outweighs the potential injury risk to his best players.
With that being said, just because players like Pickett or 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt might see a few series of action (while Allen likely sits on the sideline) doesn’t mean that the Bills are destined to lose. Preseason matchups are notoriously difficult to predict the results of (which is what happens when unheralded players take the field and the talent level drops), and there’s no way of knowing which team’s fourth-stringers will be able to separate themselves from the pack.
The Bills, ranked favorably in the NFL preseason power rankings, are set to bring their strengths to the field. Fox Sports’ analysis on young talent rankings sheds light on the Bills’ draft history, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the matchup. The best US legal sports betting sites are taking notice, offering fans a chance to engage with this showdown through their predictions and wagers: right now, they give the Steelers an edge, listing them at or around -145 to earn the win at home on Saturday, August 19.
What’s the Outlook: Regular Season
The good news for the Bills, though, is that the opposite is true once the regular season begins. The Steelers may be able to get the better of them as the home team in a game that doesn’t matter, but they aren’t in the upper echelon of championship contenders like the Bills are.
That’s not to say that Buffalo doesn’t have room to improve, though. They’ve struggled with consistency in recent years, and much of that stems from a shoddy running game and poor offensive line play that leaves Allen hanging out to dry or banged up with nagging injuries.
On the other side of the ball, they’ve struggled to rush the passer against top-tier quarterbacks, which is why they haven’t been able to get over the hump against players like Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow.
As of right now, it doesn’t look like the Bills did enough to address these issues… but with Allen, anything is possible, and they’re more than capable of reeling off a championship run.