ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — This was exactly the kind of game the Bills needed.
Gabe Davis required only three catches the prove his ankle injury was a thing of the past. Really, all it took was one touch. A 98-yarder that stunned the Steelers and set the Bills offense on course for another obliteration.
Even with the ankle injury, a few drops over the last couple weeks opened the door to some doubt about Davis’ ability to be dangerous as the number two receiver in this offense. His big play ability against Pittsburgh had to give everyone in blue and red flashbacks to the thrashing he gave the Chiefs secondary last January. Even if there was plenty of confidence that Davis still existed, it was good to see it.
“Gabe was never gone,” Dion Dawkins said. “He was healthy (today).” No argument from the Steelers.
This is a jolt the Bills may have needed as an offense. They’ve been stuck the last couple weeks into plodding scoring drives that lasted 15, 17, or 20 plays. Miami and Baltimore sat back and forced Josh Allen to go to the length of the field one checkdown at a time.
Ken Dorsey seemed to find an answer for that against the Steelers. Or maybe, the Steelers set about trying to do Steeler man-to-man things and got burned. Either way, the Bills sent a reminder their quick strike ability won’t be contained for long.
Don’t underestimate how difficult it was for Allen to put both the long Davis touchdown passes right on the fingertips. The wind was not game-altering, but it was there. For balls that had to travel 50-plus yards in the air, Allen’s accuracy was as eye-opening as his club-record regulation passing total of 424 yards. A 60-minute mark that Allen set in about 45 minutes. That’ll qualify as this week’s entry in the 2022 book “Holy bleep! Josh Allen did what?!?”
This game was a confidence booster all over the board for a variety of young guys. Khalil Shakir appeared composed and dangerous as the Bills’ top slot receiver. Sure, it helps to have Davis and Stefon Diggs nearly going for three bills around him, but Shakir did his job. There won’t be any qualms turning back his way in the near future.
On defense, the Bills held Pittsburgh to just three points despite missing five starters. Tyrel Dodson had a standout performance with a team-high 11 tackles and a (cheapy) sack. That’s why I call him one of the best backup linebackers in the NFL.
It wasn’t just Dodson. The Bills kept a real live NFL team out of the end zone with mostly a second-team secondary. I don’t care that it was a rookie quarterback making his first start on the road. I don’t care that a rookie quarterback was down gobs of points quickly against one of the league’s best offenses. Seeing the B-plus team play like a borderline elite defense is going to do oodles of good.
“We always talk about any guy (on our team) can start for any of the other 31 NFL teams,” Dodson said. “So blessed to get an opportunity… I got to maximize my opportunities when I get them.”
Kaiir Elam may have gotten more opportunities than he would have preferred in this game. The Steelers went after Elam early and succeeded on multiple occasions. He took it kinda hard afterward.
“I’m a way better player than what I gave up,” he said. “I want to be great. I have all the ability. I’m just trying to put it together.”
Elam said he was thinking about how he could “fix it” before landing his first interception. He knows that INT doesn’t make up for whatever went wrong earlier, but it helps. Maybe especially because of the reception he got after the turnover.
The veterans in the sideline couldn’t wait to congratulate Elam. Tre’Davious White was jumping on his shoulders. Tremaine Edmunds was there. Jordan Poyer, too. When the respected veterans on a team are running around like school kids who were just told it’s treat time, that seems a great way to boost a young player’s confidence.
After opening with the defending champs and then the number one team in the AFC last year and then the number one challenger in the division, this was the first time the Bills had a game where they were supposed to dominate. It was the Bills’ first “take care of business” game and they acted like it. They ran a respected franchise out of the building with a handful of their own number one’s on the bench.
The most important thing the Bills might have needed from this game was the rest. I won’t ever accuse Sean McDermott of overlooking an opponent, especially an opponent coached by Mike Tomlin. It’s still hard not to wonder how many of those injured players would have been on the field if it were the Chiefs on the other sideline instead of the rebuilding Steelers.
Regardless, all those players who needed some time to heal got it. All the players who needed a moment on the big stage got that, too. The bruised and beat-up Bills will be as ready as they possibly can be for another titanic matchup with the Chiefs.
This game against the Steelers was exactly what the doctor ordered.