Sunday, August 17, 2014

Observation Deck: Steelers 19, Bills 16

By Scott Brown
August 16, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) intercepts a pass intended for Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler (84) in the first quarter of an NFL football preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) intercepts a pass intended for Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler (84) in the first quarter of an NFL football preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers first-team offense needed less than 5 minutes to score two touchdowns and one of those came on a 67-yard catch-and-run by Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown . 

Yet the story of the night at Heinz Field was the Steelers’ defense -- and specifically a prized rookie who is on his way to becoming one of the faces of a unit that is in transition. 

Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier starred in his NFL debut, recording six tackles, two stops on special teams and an interception. 

And that was just in the first quarter of the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills . 

“I thought he did an awesome job,” Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “I’m looking forward to playing with him.” 

Shazier finished with 11 tackles despite playing a little less than a half. The 6-foot-1, 237-pound speedster answered any questions about how much a bruised knee that cost him two weeks of training camp set back the first-round pick. 

The short answer: it didn’t. 

Shazier was all over the field, and his interception of an EJ Manuel pass in the second quarter set up the second of Ben Roethlisberger’s two touchdown passes. 

Roethlisberger played into the second quarter and looked sharp, completing 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards. The Steelers won their first preseason game since 2012 despite squandering an early 10-point lead. 

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ second preseason game: 

  • The starting offense line didn’t punch many holes in one of the best defensive lines in the NFL as the Steelers rushed for just 10 yards in the first half. It did keep Roethlisberger clean and gave the 11-year veteran enough time to stand in the pocket and deliver a 16-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton for the Steelers’ second score.
  • The starting defense, which played more than a quarter and was only missing outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin), didn’t allow a touchdown. But it’s hard to tell how much of a test it received. Ballyhooed wide receiver Sammy Watkins left the game early with a rib injury and did not return. Manuel, meanwhile, is nothing more than a dink-and-dunk quarterback. The Bills have 6-10 written all over them unless Manuel makes dramatic improvement in his second season.
  • Mike Mitchell might want to tone it down a little bit. The Steelers’ free safety drew a taunting penalty after jawing at Bills running back C.J. Spiller following a stop that he wasn’t even in on. Yo, Mike, you’re still the new guy in town. Better to be seen than heard for now.
  • Landry Jones, the second quarterback in for the Steelers, is lucky he didn’t get yanked after throwing an interception and later losing a fumble that the Bills turned into a game-tying touchdown. Jones took a step back as 40 of his 53 passing yards came on a catch-and-run by Dri Archer, and he was sacked twice.
  • A pair of undrafted rookies, defensive end Josh Mauro and outside linebacker Howard Jones, played with the second-team defense. Mauro appears to have moved past Brian Arnfelt, who played in a couple of games at the end of last season after spending most of 2013 on the Steelers’ practice squad. Mauro notched a sack in the fourth quarter after Jones helped flush Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel out of the pocket. Jones also recovered the fumble that set up Shaun Suisham's game-winning field goal.

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