PITTSBURGH (12-5) at BUFFALO (15-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS
OPENING LINE: Bills by 6 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook
SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 16-11
LAST MEETING: Bills beat Steelers 26-15 on Dec. 13, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York
STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (24t), RUSH (32), PASS (15), SCORING (12).
STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (11), PASS (3), SCORING (3).
BILLS OFFENSE: OVERALL (2t), RUSH (20), PASS (3), SCORING (2).
BILLS DEFENSE: OVERALL (14), RUSH (17), PASS (13), SCORING (16).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers plus-9; Bills plus-4
STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: The last time the Steelers used their first-round draft pick on a running back, they won the Super Bowl. They’re looking for the same kind of magic with former Alabama star Najee Harris. The team kept the training wheels on Harris during the preseason, but will need him and an almost completely remade offensive line to be effective to take pressure off QB Ben Roethlisberger.
BILLS PLAYER TO WATCH: The Bills doubled down in the draft by using their first two picks in selecting Greg Rousseau and Carlos Basham in a bid to improve their sagging pass rush. The long-armed, fleet-footed, 6-foot-6 and 266-pound Rousseau showed flashes of his potential in generating two sacks during the preseason. “He’s gotten us excited about some of the things he’s been able to accomplish,” coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “We expect big things from him.”
KEY MATCHUP: Steelers CB Joe Haden vs. Bills All-Pro WR Stefon Diggs. With Haden sidelined by a concussion in the teams’ most recent meeting, Diggs burned the Steelers with 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
KEY INJURIES: Steelers DE Tyson Alualu missed practice with an elbow injury, while starting C Kendrick Green has been limited with a thumb injury. ... Bills DT Star Lotulelei, counted on to be a run-stuffing presence after opting out last season for COVID-19 reasons, has missed two practices with a calf injury. Offseason free-agent addition WR Emmanuel Sanders is bothered by a nagging foot injury.
SERIES NOTES: After losing six straight, the Bills have won the past two meetings — both in prime time in consecutive years. ... The Bills have combined for six interceptions in their past two meetings, with CBs Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace having two each. ... This marks just the second time the teams have met to open the season, with Pittsburgh beating Buffalo 28-17 on Sept. 3, 1978. ... The Steelers open on the road for the seventh straight season, having gone 3-2-1 in their past six. ... The Bills are 3-1 in season openers under coach Sean McDermott.
STATS AND STUFF: Roethlisberger is 9-5-1 in 16 opening weekend starts. ... Pittsburgh’s past two losses to Buffalo are largely the result of the Steelers’ inability to run the ball. Pittsburgh rushed for 47 yards in a 26-15 loss last year, and 51 yards in a 17-10 loss at Heinz Field in 2019 when undrafted rookie free agent QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges started while Roethlisberger recovered from right elbow surgery. ... The Steelers will try to revive a rushing attack that finished dead last (32nd) in yards and yards per carry in 2020. They will do it with Harris in the backfield and three new starters on the offensive line in rookie LT Dan Moore Jr., C Kendrick Green and RG Trai Turner. ... Roethlisberger begins the season seventh on the NFL’s all-time yards passing list (60,348) but could climb into the top five if he plays all 17 games. Philip Rivers is fifth with 63,440. ... The Steelers have topped the NFL in sacks each of the last four seasons but have sacked Buffalo's Josh Allen just twice in two meetings. ... The Bills won their first AFC East title since 1995 and enjoyed their deepest playoff run in 27 years, which ended with a loss to Kansas City in the conference championship game. ... Allen enters his fourth year while coming off a breakthrough campaign in which he set numerous single-season records, including 4,544 yards passing, 37 TDs passing, 46 total TDs (including one receiving). Buffalo rewarded Allen last month by signing him to a six-year, $258 million contract, which locks up the QB through 2028. ... Diggs, acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March 2020, became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in both yards receiving (1,535) and catches (127). ... Buffalo matched an NFL record by having 13 players with a TD receiving. ... The Bills allowed a franchise-worst 351 first downs against them in 2020.
FANTASY TIP: With Lotulelei’s status uncertain, Steelers rookie RB Harris should have an opportunity to find his footing against a defense which allowed 140 or more yards rushing eight times (including playoffs) last season.
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