The Pittsburgh Steelers defense regained a bit of respect in the team’s 23-10 win over Buffalo but celebrating the return of the Steel Curtain is still a bit premature. Buffalo entered the game with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel under center for the first time in four weeks. The rust was evident from the first snap to the last.
The Steelers and coordinator Dick LeBeau (17-2 now against rookie QBs) took advantage of Manuel’s rust and pressured him on a fairly consistent basis.
The run defense was significantly better against the Bills as well. Buffalo was held to under 100 yards rushing and could never seem to get backs C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson going. Credit nose tackle Steve McLendon who has been hit with a lot of criticism in recent weeks. I thought he much better against Buffalo.
The good news for this unit is that they regained some respect for themselves and their coordinator by limiting the Buffalo offense all day. Rookie Jarvis Jones collectd his first NFL sack and Ryan Clark picked off his second pass of the season.
The bad news is that this was the Buffalo offense with a gimpy Spiller and rusty Manuel and a game plan as vanilla as a junior varsity football team. Manuel will have better days ahead and maybe even some this season, but let’s not get overly excited about shutting down the Bills based upon what happened last weekend in Foxboro.
While the defense held Spiller in check and Jackson to a degree, Jackson still finished with 55 yards rushing on just 12 carries. That means an average of 4.6 yards per carry. That is not very ‘Steelers’ like at all regardless of the outcome of the game.
There’s a very good chance I could be wrong about this defense. Maybe the win over Buffalo will one day be seen as a turning point in the 2013 season. I’d be more than willing to fall on my sword if such a thing happened but I don’t see it coming.
Next week the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions come to Heinz Field with Reggie Bush in the backfield and Calvin Johnson ready to destroy an experienced yet aging secondary.
Once we get through that contest then we can talk about whether the Steelers’ defense has returned to form or not.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 630pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.