The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills face each other this week, and it’s starting to look like injuries could play a huge factor in this Week 5 matchup.
As we inch closer to kickoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, it’s becoming increasingly clear that injuries are going to play a big factor in this Week 5 AFC matchup. The last time these two teams faced in Week 1 of 2021, Mike Tomlin’s team upset the Bills, but this time around, the Steelers opened as the biggest underdogs they have been since the NFL merger in 1966.
While Buffalo is going to be heavy favorites no matter what, injuries could really make a difference in this game. Obviously, the Steelers are still without T.J. Watt, which means that Josh Allen could have a field day if the pass rush doesn’t get to him consistently. However, now it looks like Pittsburgh could be without a few starting defensive backs.
Mike Tomlin already hinted early in the week that CB Ahkello Witherspoon would not be available vs Buffalo. Now fans are getting nervous about the availability of Terrell Edmunds, as the strong safety has yet to be cleared from concussion protocol.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, they will get a few advantages of their own this week. Bills beat reporter for The Athletic, Joe Buscaglia, announced that star safety Jordan Poyer will not play this week against the Steelers. Joining him from the sidelines will be CB Christian Benford, TE Dawson Knox, WR Jake Kumerow, and WR Jameson Crowder.
Outside of Poyer, these might not seem like significant losses, but this could really help Kenny Pickett and the passing game on Sunday. Poyer was an All-Pro safety in 2021 and he currently leads the NFL with 4 interceptions. Not having him in the secondary is a massive blow to Buffalo’s defense.
Likewise, Christian Benford is a big loss. While Benford hasn’t been spectacular in coverage, the young cornerback is excellent in run support. With the team already missing star CB Tre’Davious White and S Micah Hyde, losing another starter in the secondary makes the Bills razor-thin here.
Steelers could take advantage of an injury-riddled Bills secondary
It’s not often that the Pittsburgh Steelers get to face a secondary without its three best players, but that will be the case on Sunday as Poyer, White, and Hyde will all be watching from the sidelines. In their absence, the Bills will call on some inexperienced players who haven’t played particularly well so far.
This is great news for Kenny Pickett who is hoping to have a big performance in his first-ever NFL start. While Pickett will still have to deal with an elite pass rush, he should be able to find some wide-open receivers — assuming his offensive line gives him enough time to survey the field.
I think that Pickett would be wise to target Pat Freiermuth down the seam often, as Buffalo is missing two elite playmakers at the safety position. Likewise, without Tre’Davious White, I don’t believe they have a cornerback who can get the best of George Pickens or Diontae Johnson this week.
The Steelers will have plenty of struggles of their own as they will be asked to contain Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs without at least one starter in the secondary as well as not having T.J. Watt to provide pressure. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that Pickett could have a big showing through the air. Whether or not it will be enough to keep pace with the Bills remains to be seen.